Tommy Hanson, in his first start since coming off of the disabled list, overcame some early inning struggles to turn in a quality start, going six innings and giving up three earned runs while recording eight strikeouts. Most of the damage came via the long ball, as Ichiro Suzuki and Jack Cust each hit solo homers.
However, the real story is McCann. One night after accounting for three of Atlanta’s five hits, McCann went 4-for-5 with a go-ahead two run single. The perennial All-Star catcher raised his batting average to .317 with his performance Tuesday night.
The Braves were down 3-0 after four innings with Seattle Mariners starter Michael Pineda cruising, but Dan Uggla put the Braves on the board with a solo home run to center field in the 5th inning. After adding an unearned run in the 6th inning, the Braves offense kicked into gear.
Down 3-2 in the 7th inning, Uggla, Eric Hinske, and Nate McLouth drew walks to chase Pineda with the bases loaded and one out. Jordan Schafer then hit a clutch single off lefty reliever Aaron Laffey to tie the game. After a Jason Heyward strikeout, McCann showed why he is the best catcher in the National League by breaking the tie with a two-run single.
“I’m seeing the ball well,” McCann said. “I’m getting good pitches to hit and I’m working counts. I’m being patient. When I have those things going, I feel confident I can get hits”
In his past 25 games, McCann has hit .396 with 6 doubles, 10 homers, 21 RBI, and a 1.272 OPS. He is also getting it done on the defensive side. In the bottom of the seventh, McCann threw out Adam Kennedy on the back side of a double steal attempt. That proved to be a key play when Dustin Ackley hit an RBI single off of George Sherrill to cut the Braves lead to 5-4.
Scott Proctor replaced Sherrill to record the final out of the 7th. Jonny Venters had a perfect 8th inning, and Craig Kimbrel struck out two batters in the 9th to record his 22nd save.
As for Hanson, he was not as sharp as he usually is, but that was expected in his first start back after being injured with shoulder tendonitis. He gave up two runs and threw a lot of pitches in the first two innings, but he settled down and shook off the rust to deliver a solid start.
“The first two, three innings he kind of fought himself a little,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Then he kind of settled in. He might have thrown 20 pitches in the last two innings, where his pitch count was pretty high the first three or four innings.”
With Cliff Lee pitching his third consecutive shutout for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves didn’t gain any ground and remain 4.5 games back of the division lead.
The Braves go for the sweep on Wednesday as Derek Lowe (3-6, 4.33 ERA) faces Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (8-6, 3.19 ERA) in a 3:40 EDT start.
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