Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

3 thoughts on the Santana-powered Braves


Here's guessing this pitch was a strike. (Todd Kirkland/AP)

These random ravings are presented in the aftermath of Ervin Santana's dazzling debut -- eight innings, three hits, no runs, no walks, six strikeouts, 88 pitches, 65 strikes -- as an Atlanta Brave.

1. Is Ervin Santana really Greg Maddux with a better fastball? Yes, I'm exaggerating. Maddux did this sort of precision thing every night for two decades, but still: When you don't throw your second non-strike until you're facing the leadoff man in the fourth inning, you're dealing at the highest level. On his first night with his new team, Santana needed 29 pitches, 28 of them strikes, to record nine outs. By way of contrast, the Mets' Zack Wheeler -- the East Paulding product who's considered one of the best young pitchers in baseball -- needed 18 pitches to record one out, and by then his team trailed 1-0. Asked how this game compared to his 2011 no-hitter as a Angel, Santana said: "That's better than a no-hitter. When you throw the ball over the plate, you're in control."

2. Jason Heyward had himself a night. He entered hitting .107, having gone 0-for-the-past-22. But he led off the first by fouling off six Wheeler pitches, and he capped the at-bat with a rocket of a home run over the right-field fence. He would single his next two times up, the latter knock driving home the Braves' second run. (After a Santana single, the fifth hit of his 10-year big-league career, pushed Evan Gattis to third base.) Heyward had said after going 0-for-5 Tuesday that he felt his at-bats were getting better, and that 11-pitch plate appearance in the first inning proved the point. Heyward also made a lunging grab of David Wright's liner to save a run, which would turn out to be a big deal because ...

3. The matchless bullpen nearly let the lead slip. With the Braves leading 4-0, Santana exited after eight innings. But Jordan Walden walked Eric Young Jr. to start the ninth, and David Wright's single forced Fredi Gonzalez to summon Craig Kimbrel. Problem solved, right? Uh, no. Kimbrel walked Curtis Granderson to load the bases. Two more hits made it 4-3 with the tying run at third, whereupon Kimbrel struck out Ruben Tejada to end it. Which only goes to show that the best in the business isn't at his best every single night.

From myajc.com, our premium site: Santana's stellar debut features great pitching and a key single.


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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.