Thursday, September 9, 2010

Went To Pittsburgh, Left In 2nd Place

The Braves went into Pittsburgh on Labor Day on the heels of a tough series loss at Florida hoping for a sweep but desperately needing at least a series win. Instead, they departed the Steel City just barely avoiding getting swept themselves and with a 2nd place standing. And I was there to see it all go down.

Monday’s match-up saw Tommy Hanson throw an effective 6 IP, 3 R (2 ER), 4 H, 4K, 2 BB. Unfortunately the offense didn’t show up to support him. Atlanta got its base runners with 8 hits and 3 walks, but going 0-6 with RISP and 11 LOB lead to just 1 run (on a sacrifice fly). If possible, Tuesday’s affair was even worse. Team ace Tim Hudson took a perfect game into the 5th inning, but then was tagged for 4 ER in a disastrous 7th inning. Braves bats managed just 5 hits (0-3 with RISP, 6 LOB) while getting shut out against the MLB’s worst team. The impotent offensive performance was capped off with a back-breaking Derrek Lee GIDP with the bases loaded on Tuesday. If you’re keeping track, that’s just 1 run over 2 games. To add insult to injury, that 1 total run came against two Pirates starting pitchers with ERAs of about 6.00. Kind of tough to accept if you’re a Braves fan.

Thanks Chipper!
The two losses meant that the most exciting part of the games for me was getting tossed a torn-up BP ball from Chipper and PNC Park’s “Beers of the Burgh” vendor station. I first attended a Braves vs. Pirates game in the 2006 season and PNC Park continues to live up to its billing as one of the best ballparks in all of baseball. It has a breathtaking view of the Pittsburgh skyline looking over the Alleghany River and some great food and drink options. While the amenities are definitely great, the best part of the park is probably the small crowds. Entering and exiting was as quick and easy as it gets and the vending lines were essentially non-existent. It’s much easier to enjoy a game when you have little to no people to contend with.

Perhaps the only negative was dealing with the ever-persistent autograph seeker/hawkers. Being 1,000+ miles away from Turner Field here in Upstate, NY means I don’t get to see too many Braves games in person (these were my 4th and 5th this year), so I like to get to the stadium as early as possible to watch batting practice. Unfortunately I have to ‘battle’ with those looking to get any autograph possible to add to their eBay store. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a quick picture or autograph when the opportunity presents itself, but it gets frustrating looking for a spot near home plate while nearly everyone else is pulling out their team rosters and binders full of baseball cards. I understand that’s part of going to games, but I still don’t like it.

The Braves ended the Pirates series with a 9-1 win (typical ATL offense..1 R, 0 R, 9 R) for Derek Lowe to go 2-4 on their 6 game road trip. The next 7 games will be home at Turner where the Braves are still an MLB-best 49-19. 4 wins are all but necessary, but 5+ wins would certainly be helpful. Jurrjens, Minor, Hanson and Hudson will face Wainwright, Carpenter, Westbrook and TBA, respectively.

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