Looking back on an improbable finish

While watching highlights of last night’s incredible finish, I noticed Bobby Cox’s reaction after Jason Heyward drilled his game-tying, two-out homer in the ninth inning.    While his players instantly celebrated when Heyward’s blast cleared the wall, Cox paused and then began clapping in an excited manner.  

When I get to Turner Field today, I’ll ask him if he remembers his reaction.  But my guess is that his split-second pause was just a product of the fact that he had to give himself time to think, “you’ve got to be kidding me, this kid did it again.”

As great as anybody thought Heyward could be, I think it’s safe to say that he has proven to be even greater during the first 13 games of his career.   Through the first seven games he’s played at Turner Field, he has already produced a memorable homer with the first swing of his career, contributed a walk-off single and foiled the rival Phillies with last night’s blast off Ryan Madson.  

At the ripe age of 20, Heyward has already proven to be Mr. Clutch in Atlanta.   He is hitting .727 (8-for-11) with runners in scoring position and .750 (6-for-8) with two outs and runners in scoring position.   During the eighth and ninth innings combined, he has batted .555 (5-for-9) and his two ninth-inning homers have been hit with the Braves trailing.  

It’s impressive enough to look at the fact that he has compiled 16 RBIs through the first 13 games of his career.  But while watching ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning, many of us learned that Ted Williams was the only other Major League player under the age of 21 to tally 16 RBIs through the first 13 games of his career.  

Still even with all of these impressive statistics, there’s a way to argue that Heyward’s homer simply added to the improbable events that occurred last night.   Down 3-0 with two outs in the ninth, the Braves needed just nine pitches and four at-bats to create a 4-3, 10-inning victory that put them in a first-place tie with a Phillies club that has navigated a much softer schedule through the season’s first two weeks.  

Troy Glaus came to the plate in the ninth inning hearing the displeasure of fans, who were unhappy about the fact that he’d booted a Ryan Howard grounder in the top of the fourth and then hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and Heyward on deck to end the bottom half.

Or maybe those boos were a product of the fact that he was coming to bat with a .181 batting average.  Or maybe it was because he had produced just one hit in the 10 at-bats that he had previously compiled in either the eighth or ninth innings.  

Whatever the case, those boos quickly turned to cheers when Glaus belted Madson’s fastball over the left-center field wall.  His second homer of the year, set the stage for Heyward, who  came to the plate with just four hits in 27 at-bats with the bases empty.  

Stick with me, this was a night where improbability reigned.  Thus in order to figure out how Heyward fit the story line, I had to take advantage of the opportunity to use this early-season trend that really doesn’t bare a whole lot of significance.  

Heyward’s blast opened the door for Billy Wagner to produce a perfect inning and set the stage for Nate McLouth, who came to the plate to begin the top of the 10th inning hitting just .138 (4-for-29).  His most recent extra-base hit had occurred in the sixth inning of last year’s 15-inning season finale against the Nationals.

But after drawing a 2-2 count, McLouth made his first career at-bat against Jose Contreras a memorable one.  After drilling his game-ender into the right field seats, the Braves center fielder celebrated the first walk-off homer of his career in unique style.  

Finally provided the opportunity to carry through with a plan they devised last year, the Braves players and coaches didn’t rush on the field to celebrate this moment with McLouth.  Instead, they pranked him by going down the dugout stairs and heading toward the clubhouse.

“I looked when I got around second (base) and everybody had gone (toward the clubhouse),” McLouth said.  “I didn’t know what to do when I crossed home and there they were waiting for me in the tunnel.  I kind of did the weird little dance before I got down there.  I didn’t know what to do to be honest with you.   I knew I had to slam the helmet at some point, so I did that when I crossed home.”  <p>  

In case you haven’t seen video of this prank, click here to view it.   You can hear John Smoltz laughing with his broadcast partner Joe Simpson and saying, “That’s perfect.”

Further showing the camaraderie this club seems to have, the Braves certainly concluded an improbable finish in perfect fashion.   Entering the ninth inning, McLouth and Glaus had combined to hit .164 (12-for-73) with one extra-base hit.   

Entering tonight’s game against Roy Halladay, they carry a fresh sense of confidence and the tremendous momentum created by two consecutive walk-off victories.  

While Halladay presents a tremendous challenge, we’ve all quickly learned that anything is possible as long as Mr. Heyward is in the house.  

33 Comments

Tonight is huge. Last night was like the first artillery shell landing on the deck of the Bismarck. If we are able to beat the Phillies ace tonight they are really going to realize that they are vulnerable. They were the consensus pick of all the pundits but we can send them staggering tonite. I can’t remember a bigger game this early in the season in a while. I am really glad we have Huddy suiting up, I think he is ready for this.

Tonight is huge. Last night was like the first artillery shell landing on the deck of the Bismarck. If we are able to beat the Phillies ace tonight they are really going to realize that they are vulnerable. They were the consensus pick of all the pundits but we can send them staggering tonite. I can’t remember a bigger game this early in the season in a while. I am really glad we have Huddy suiting up, I think he is ready for this.

Man, if Huddy keeps everything down tonight we could be looking at a 1-0 or 2-1 score. How sweet would it be to just shell Hallady and light him up for 10 runs? C’mon Bravos!!!

I mentioned yesterday that I thought the lineup was very potent – it turned out not to be until last second, but I still stand by the fact that that was a good lineup.

Hopefully this one can be successful, too, even if it is another thriller.

So Drumhead you have better research than ESPN and the Esteemed Mountaineer? Can you provide a source for your startling revelation or are you merely a South Phillie trol?

God this time stamp stuff is annoying.

Not thrilled to see Melky in the lineup… but I’m usually pacified by seeing #22 in it.

Heyward and Ted Williams were the only two players to get that many RBIs in the first 13 games of there career while under the age of 21. There have been other players that have gotten more RBIs in there first 13 games but there were over 21.

wuh oh, huddy is amped

into the 4th inning and not 1 hit yet….. let’s not have a repeat of the no-hitter…pls. huddy is not looking sharp.

From the clips I saw, Philly’s defense played over its head. I saw where Victorino robbed Glaus.

Where’s SaltLake???? Jim Edmonds is hitting .325 w 1 HR and 5 RBIs!!!!

Jesus! Derek Lowe is a nightmare to watch! He throws batting practice fastballs and his breaking stuff floats right over the heart of the plate. Also, the Phillies defense has made me want to absolutely tear what’s left of my hair out.

Regardless of the game yesterday and the game today, I think the Braves are fine.

Has anyone noticed Chipper, very quietly and slowly, building up from a low 100 BA to where it is now? Thank goodness. I was seriously worried. I shouldn’t have been, but after last year…

Thank you, Chase Utley.

Thank you AGAIN, Chase Utley.

When did Chase Utley become the best Braves player?

We have seen nothing but at’em balls, web gem defense and crafty pitching all week. our pitching has been missing locations uo in the zone and predictable all week. I would like to see some of the Braves players get mad, show a little emotion, act like it matters. This is a piss poor showing against the favorites to win the NL in our own division nonetheless. I will be at this weekends series in NY, and I better see some better baseball.

Matt Diaz’s stock is falling.

Troy Glaus is the best player on whatever team the Braves happen to be playing. And piss poor is a great description of what I saw during this series. I’m ready to start lobbying for Eric Hinske to be our starting 1B. Also (this one is for Bobby): what is your obsession with Melky Cabrera!?

Lowe was behind in the count all day. Lowe can not afford to pitch behind in the count. Can’t we put him on the DL with a broken sinker or something? Just think we have 3-3/4 years left with him. Derek Lowe, it’s spelled A-L-B-A-T-R-O-S-S.

Typical reactions – A couple of bad losses and this team is worthless. A couple of exciting wins and the team is amazing. It never fails with Braves fans. I’m not happy at all with this series… but I still like our team and I think we will win at least 90 games.
Does Lowe have to give up 5 runs every time he pitches?

Again, why are we using terms like “almost all season”. Almost all season is about 10-12 games. Still too early to throw in the towel or go stick our head in the sand. If it makes you negative people feel any better, we have only lost two series ALL SEASON, WOW! (please hint the sarcasm here). In fact, if Edgar doesn’t touch Wagner for a three run jack, we would have won all series before this one. No need to go all crazy because we lost a series to the Phils. I’d rather lose to them now and beat them in September as oppossed to dominating them early and failing late like last year. There are 162 games, chill out. However, I can definately understand the frustrations with McLouth, Cabrera, and Lowe. But baseball is a crazy game, guys can get turned around with one at-bat/outing.

By the way, broken sinker — billreef, I laughed for a good 5 minutes about that one….

I for one am still with the team, but facts are facts. Diaz and Cabrera have been black holes in the lineup almost all season (with the exception of a couple of games). So has McLouth, but he looks like he’s showing signs of life again.

Another positive thought would be that Johan Santana pitched last night, we won’t even have to see him during the weekend series.

15 games, but point taken. It could always be worse… we could have gotten smoked like the Pirates were in the past two games.

Lowe wasn’t exactly sharp, but he would’ve only given up 3 runs if Prado made that double play. And probably would’ve gone an extra inning. But it’s a moot point when your lineup CAN’T HIT JAMIE MOYER AT HOME. There are too many holes right now to consistently manufacture runs. Or at least more than 3. LF, CF, 1B, and surprisingly SS are virtual dead zones. I think at least 3 will definitely turn things around. Hopefully all of them will. Too bad it doesn’t seem like Schafer has even started playing down in Gwinnett.

Good point viva, it does seem as if the Braves have a knack for making mediocre pitchers look great. Kendrick and Moyer don’t exactly elicit fear in the hearts of lineups around the NL. It’s definately going to be hard to keep Hinske out of the lineup with the way he is hitting the ball off the bench (plus the lack of production out of Glaus). Also, I haven’t been able to watch all of the game, but where has Infante been? It seems he is not seeing much playing time so far. I can’t help but think that maybe Hinske or Infante will get some AB’s in the outfield if Diaz, Cabrera, and McLouth continue to struggle with the stick.

Well another excuse for Lowe. Last week it didn’t matter how many runs he allowed he was a “winner”. By that logic, he should win when he only get 3. I might also mention, that he also get’s a pass because he is an “innings eater”. Well that logic doesn’t work anymore since in 4 games he has 22 innings. Medlen has to work on short rest and gives up runs because Lowe can only finish 5. And as a side note, Prado, didn’t load the bases and that error was a much Esky’s as his. Esky was trying to make a slick pivot and lost track of that ball, it was catch-able.
Let’s face it Lowe has been erratic, his control is horrific(14 walks in 22 innings) and his sinker is more of a floater right now. He is just lucky he HAS gotten killer support or he would be winless. Halladay only got 2 runs Wednesday and he WON!!!
I’m not saying I like what our offense is doing, but sometimes they slump and need to win anyway. When we only gave up 3 runs on Tuesday look at what we were able to do despite struggling the whole game.

And tonite Remember the Maine, he has a 10+ ERA. It’s time to party in NY.

Hey I’m just getting some positives from that sh*tty game. And that WAS a bad feed from Prado. You’re not supposed to expect the ball to be 2 feet over your head. But whatever. I agree that Lowe has not been good and I’m not defending him.
Hopefully we can start hitting in this series, and not help another mediocre pitcher get his ERA below 7.
Mark, so it’s Jurjjens tomorrow and Hanson on Sunday? I think I’ll be at both of those games at Citi. I’ll be the guy trying to not get into a fight because I’m wearing a Braves hat. Too bad I haven’t gotten my Heyward jersey yet.

Viva, Please see Mark’s comments following re: Prado’s throw.

Oh and Papi. also see comments re: Diaz. He always starts slow, but you know that engine will get going when he hits his stride. The guy is only hitting .322 in four years as a brave. You really aren’t serious that his stock is falling are you???? This guy has been the best catalyst for the Braves when he get’s going of just about anyone. I mean it’s no coincidence that when Diaz when on his sick tear last year the Braves started creeping back into contention. I’m not saying he was the sole reason, but he sure was an important part of it. Matt Diaz’s career batting average in the 1st inning, .417.As a Brave slightly better at .420. Sick. Why this guy isn’t batting leadoff I’ll never know, but I guess that’s just me.

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