They weren’t going to let it happen again.
The Atlanta Braves, losers of eight-consecutive games to the rival Phillies seemed to reach a tipping point last night. Down six and staring at the possibility of losing their ninth straight by way of shutout it seemed improbable that the Braves would be able to overcome such a deficit. Especially considering their chances were even worse with Roy Halladay on the mound and doing what he normally does (i.e., dominate).
But something clicked with them in that fifth inning. We saw it in Los Angeles a week ago but not to this extent. Clearly something showed that was bigger than frustration. Bigger than anything we’ve seen from them in some time.
They got upset, and took it out on Roy Halladay and the Phillies.
It started with three singles from Chipper Jones, Eric Hinske and Tyler Pastornicky to start the inning. A coaching visit came next and surely Halladay would settle in and get out of the jam, right? After a Francisco fly out, Michael Bourn and Martin Prado cut the lead to four on two consecutive singles. Freddie Freeman popped out next, and with the bases still loaded, Brian McCann came up with two out and a chance to inflict serious damage. But coming into that at-bat McCann was just 3 for his last 28 and struggling badly. While Braves Country waited on the edge of their seat doubt crept in as well. Then it happened:
The 2-1 cutter that flattened out.
McCann crushed it to the right field seats and brought the Braves back even against the great Roy Halladay. The game was back and forth and the Braves, having taken the lead the next inning, had to come back from a four-run deficit to send it to extras. As the bullpen was run thin and their bench as well the Braves didn’t seem prepared to have a marathon affair with the Phillies. That conversation was squashed in the 11th inning as Dan Uggla started the Braves off with a single to left.
Up came Chipper Jones.
In Spring Training Jones, who announced his retirement at the conclusion of this season, stated the new face of this franchise was Brian McCann. Well that guy brought the Braves back earlier in the game. So what does the old horse do?
None other than deposits a game-winning walk-off home run into the right center field seats that, if only for a night, reminded us why he is a truly special (and Hall of Fame) talent. The Braves didn’t just put on a good show last night by coming back. They proved they were ready to fight with the best in the game until the last out of every game. It is something that was, admittedly, missing from recent Braves teams since their run of division titles ended in 2005. They are gutting it out and playing baseball like, dare I say, those Phillies of recent memory. They showed they will be there ready to fight for not only the playoffs, but the Eastern division.
That, in my opinion, is what makes last nights game mean so much more.