Big inning rewards Hanson's record night
Braves plate six runs in seventh; rookie strikes out 11
ATLANTA -- With the Trade Deadline approaching, the Braves are providing their general manager Frank Wren a sense that they may already possess all of the significant pieces needed to make a run into the postseason.Wren's position as a buyer or seller will be determined over the course of the next 10 days. But while watching the Braves preserve Tommy Hanson's impressive effort with an 11-3 win over the Giants at Turner Field on Monday night, he gained even more reason to be sold on the fact that his club has at least recently provided more reason for optimism. "You can just feel this positive vibe about this whole team," said recently acquired outfielder Ryan Church after highlighting his three-RBI night with a two-run homer during a six-run seventh inning that allowed Hanson to fully savor his record-setting performance. While allowing three runs and five hits over seven innings, Hanson set an Atlanta rookie record with 11 strikeouts. But more important, he helped the Braves begin this four-game series with a win over the Giants, who entered the evening leading the National League Wild Card race. "We're playing good baseball now and hopefully we'll keep playing the way we are," said Hanson, who has posted a 3.00 ERA while helping the Braves win five of his first eight career starts. After allowing a pair of second-inning runs, Hanson went on a dominant run that ended when the Giants found good fortune with a game-tying run in the top of the seventh inning. But seemingly determined to ensure their rookie hurler would notch his first win since June 28, the Braves plated seven runs in the bottom half of the inning. Matt Diaz's two-run triple off Sergio Romo gave the Braves a lead they wouldn't relinquish and Church's first homer since June 9 provided even more cushion for the hosts, who have won eight of their past 11 games and four of their first five coming out of the All-Star break.
"This was a great win for us and a good way to start a big series," said Church, who had tallied three hits in the previous 17 at-bats he'd collected since the Mets traded him to the Braves on July 10 in exchange for Jeff Francoeur.After Yunel Escobar and Garret Anderson began the bottom of the seventh with consecutive singles, Diaz fouled two sacrifice-bunt attempts before delivering his game-winner into the right-center-field gap. "It worked out well, but it's not always going to work out," said Diaz, who is hitting .410 (16-for-39) this month. "So needless to say, there will be extra bunting practice in my near future." Making his first start since July 9, Hanson needed 44 pitches to complete the first two innings. His lack of consistent command proved frustrating when he issued Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez a walk to load the bases in the second inning. This proved costly two batters later when Randy Winn delivered a two-out, two-run double. "It took awhile to get my release point going," Hanson said. "But everything came together and I felt good out there. I was just trying to battle through it in the second inning. It worked out. I felt good the rest of the game." While watching Hanson follow Winn's double by retiring 13 straight batters, Giants manager Bruce Bochy gained better understanding about why so many have tabbed the Braves rookie hurler to be the game's top right-handed pitching prospect. "We had him on the ropes," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We didn't maximize our opportunities. But he has good stuff." On the way to throwing a career-high 112 pitches, Hanson was cruising until Juan Uribe's one-out seventh-inning pop fly became a hit with assistance from Braves center fielder Nate McLouth, who lost it in the lights. After pinch-hitter Fred Lewis drew a seven-pitch walk, Aaron Roward delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly that a hustling McLouth grabbed in the right-center-field gap. "I know Nate felt terrible about losing that ball," Diaz said. "There was nothing he could have done about that. But it was great to come back and reward Tommy for his efforts and get that win for him." Making his first start since tossing his July 10 no-hitter against the Padres, Sanchez recorded three first-inning strikeouts and allowed just four hits over six innings. But two of those hits proved costly with Anderson delivering a second-inning solo shot and Chipper Jones drilling a go-ahead, two-run homer in the third inning. Throughout this season, there has seemingly been a need for the Braves to upgrade their lineup. But while watching his team score 5.58 runs per game this month, Wren is starting to feel even more comfortable about his offense's ability to complement his strong pitching staff. "We like our club the way that we're situated right now," Wren said. "We like the balance we have in our lineup. We've liked our pitching really from the beginning. I think we're observing and if there are ways to improve, I think we'll at least look at them. But right now we like our club."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.