SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Atlanta Braves got a bit of a scare before their NL division series against the Giants even began, when Game 2 starter Tommy Hanson fouled a ball off his face during batting practice. Although the incident turned out not to be serious, losing this game would be.
Hanson will take the mound looking to help the Braves from falling into an 0-2 hole in this best-of-five series Friday night against the Giants at AT&T Park.
Prior to San Francisco’s 1-0 win in Thursday’s Game 1, Hanson (10-11, 3.33 ERA) hit a ball that bounced off the plate and hit him above the right eye, sending him to the training room. It was originally unclear if Hanson would be able to make his scheduled start, but the Braves determined he was fine and are sticking with him for Game 2.
Game 1 played out how most expected, a pitchers’ duel with Tim Lincecum outshining Derek Lowe.
Lincecum threw a two-hitter while striking out a franchise playoff-record 14 in his postseason debut. The two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner walked just one and retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced.
“That’s one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “What a great job that kid did. He’s tough.”
Lowe lasted 5 1-3 innings and yielded one run, the result of a questionable umpiring call.
Cody Ross singled in Buster Posey in the fourth after the Giants catcher was called safe on a steal of second by umpire Paul Emmel. Posey appeared to be tagged out by Brooks Conrad on the play.
“Some of the guys came down after that inning and said he was out by six, eight inches,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “From the dugout you can’t see anything.”
After taking advantage of that call, the Giants will try to take a 2-0 series lead behind Matt Cain (13-11, 3.14).
Cain finished the 2010 season tied for the NL lead with 25 quality starts and was one of San Francisco’s most dependable arms down the stretch, but he ended the year with a dud. With a chance to clinch the NL West last Friday against San Diego, Cain was tagged for six runs and nine hits – including a season-high three homers – in four innings of a 6-4 loss. He had been 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his previous seven outings – all Giants victories.
Despite last week’s disappointing outing at AT&T Park, the right-hander has a 2.74 ERA in his last 12 home starts with San Francisco winning 10 times.
Cain’s lone start of the season against the Braves came at Turner Field on Aug. 7, when he allowed three runs and six hits in five innings of a 3-0 loss. He had won his previous two outings versus Atlanta, posting a 1.32 ERA in those starts.
While Cain is coming off one of his worst starts of 2010, Hanson finished the regular season in impressive fashion, recording a 1.81 ERA in seven outings since the start of September. He was at his best in his final three starts, posting a 0.48 ERA, but was left without a decision as his offense backed him with one total run of support.
That lack of support is a familiar theme for Hanson, the first pitcher since the Braves moved to Atlanta to have an ERA under 3.50 in at least 30 starts and still post a losing record.
Despite his sub-.500 record, the 24-year-old was so dominant down the stretch that Cox decided to go with Hanson in Game 2 over Tim Hudson, a 17-game winner and 12-year veteran.
“Hanson has been on a roll,” Cox told the Braves’ official website. “You can’t knock him out.”
In Hanson’s last outing against Philadelphia on Saturday, he allowed six hits while striking out six in five scoreless innings, but the Braves’ bullpen was roughed up in a 7-0 loss.
Hanson also didn’t get much help from his offense or bullpen in his only start of the season against the Giants on Sept. 6. He gave up one run and three hits in seven innings and exited with a lead, but Atlanta went on to lose 3-2 in 11 innings.