Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Braves rout Padres 9-2, Vazquez gets rare run support

The Braves entered Tuesday night's game against the San Diego Padres as they have entered most games of late: badly needing a win to stay in the wild card race.

The top of the fouth began auspiciously for Atlanta as three straight singles by Garret Anderson, Yunel Escobar, and Adam LaRoche loaded up the bases with no outs. But an excellent opportunity to have a big inning was squandered when Matt Diaz hit into a run-scoring double play. Javier Vazquez then struck out to end the inning, stranding Yunel Escobar on third and allowing Tim Stauffer to escape relatively unscathed and down to Atlanta just 2-1.

The Padres tied it up at two apiece in the bottom of the fourth on a Chase Headley double that drove in Will Venable from second base. At this point the narrative seemed all too familiar - squandered opportunities by the Braves lineup hanging the pitching staff out to dry.

But the Braves deviated from the script and answered right back in the next frame as Martin Prado hit a solo shot to untie the game. In the top of the sixth, Matt Diaz redeemed his bases loaded double play groundout with a two-run homerun that drove in Adam LaRoche, putting the Braves up 5-2. The Braves never looked back, tacking on four more runs before the night was over to lock up a 9-2 victory.

Javier Vazquez turned in his customarily dominant performance, striking out six, walking two, surrendering six hits, and allowing just two runs to cross the plate in seven innings pitched. Despite lowering his ERA to 2.99 on the season, Vazquez picked up just his ninth win on the season, a testament to the poor run support he's received all year long. Tuesday, however, was different. Atlanta scored seven of their nine runs before he was pulled from the game.

Elsewhere, the Rockies beat the Phillies 8-3, leaving the Braves stagnant at 5.5 games back of Colorado in the wild card race, but drawing the Braves to within 6.5 games of the NL East leading Phillies. With the Braves set to face the Phillies nine more times over the season's remainder, first place in the NL East doesn't seem as unattainable for Atlanta as it did a few weeks ago, recent struggles notwithstanding.

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