Hanson back in control (and this time Braves give him help)

The Braves gave Tommy Hanson some rare run support against Florida. (AP photo)

The Braves gave Tommy Hanson some rare run support, and he took care of the rest against Florida on Tuesday night. (AP photo)

(Updated: 10:45 p.m.)

At some point, Tommy Hanson probably started wondering if he was doing something wrong. Didn’t his teammates like him? Was it the way he dressed? Was he not using enough soap? Was it his breath? His politics?

OK, so maybe every Hanson start hasn’t left scorched earth in opposing clubhouses like some projected after his rookie season. But he has been pretty good, and the thing keeping him from winning more games has been relative abandonment from teammates.

“No, I don’t take it personally,” Hanson said laughing Tuesday night. “I know they’re out there trying.”

The Braves played “the perfect game” (Chipper Jones’ analysis) Tuesday. An offense that had gone 17 consecutive innings without scoring put up five runs by the fifth inning against Florida. There was defensive wizardry, particularly by shortstop Alex Gonzalez, leading manager Fredi Gonzalez to crack, “It looked like he was showing off a little.”

But mostly there was Hanson. After two shaky outings this season and only three wins in his previous 22 starts — largely the residual of poor run support — Hanson looked the dominant pitcher most have projected him to be in his career. He held the Marlins scoreless on four hits in his seven innings, struck out five and didn’t allow a runner past second base.

The Braves won 5-0. They also got reaffirmation that, yes, Hanson is all that.

As Jones said later when asked about the Braves finally getting Hanson some runs to work with, “Yeah, but Tommy set the tone early. He came out and was locating his fastball, got some strikeouts and let us know that they weren’t going to score too many tonight, and that any help we gave him would be appreciated. We obliged the second time [through the batting order]. It was pretty elementary after that.”

Nate McLouth doubled in a run. The Braves had three consecutive two-out hits in the third. Jason Heyward homered in the fourth. Brian McCann homered in the fifth.

It’s a wonder Hanson didn’t faint.

The three wins in his 22 previous starts might have cast Hanson as a train wreck, but that wasn’t the case. He went 3-10 despite a solid ERA of 3.49. His average run support in those games: 2.7 per game. He had one five-start stretch last season in which he pitched at least six innings, allowed one or zero earned runs and went 0-2 with three no-decisions. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time that has happened since earned runs became an official statistic back in 1913.

When you have “Elias Sports Bureau” and “1913” in the same sentence, you’ve accomplished something rare. Then again, “accomplished” probably is the wrong verb.

Media and fans have a tendency to build up great prospects, then expect too much too soon. When Hanson went 11-4 with 2.89 ERA as a rookie — despite allowing seven runs (six earned) and three homers in his debut against Milwaukee — many probably projected a string of 20-win seasons after.

That didn’t happen. But seeing Hanson’s record drop from 11-4 as a rookie to 10-11 last year to 0-2 this year set of alarms. Was he not going to be the next great thing?

“He’s fine,” pitching coach Roger McDowell said. “Obviously when you’re a pitcher, you’re going to struggle at some point, and that’s when you have to start making adjustments. … You’ll have five really good starts, five really bad starts and you have to figure out your other 25. Huddy [Hudson] and Derek [Lowe] are good examples of veteran guys who know how to pitch and stay in games.”

Hanson missed some time in spring training with a sore back and was having difficulty with pitch location in his first two starts. If it took him a little longer to get going this year, it wasn’t a problem against Florida. He had three strikeouts in the first two innings, confidently pitched out of the few jams he got in and was helped by two double plays. The early runs also helped.

“It changes the game when you have lead,” he said. “It felt great.”

It was a comfort he could get used to.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

55 comments Add your comment

5150WTGW

April 12th, 2011
9:50 pm

chipontheroad birdsrus

April 12th, 2011
9:51 pm

nice article jeff good win

The Grinch

April 12th, 2011
10:09 pm

His fastball also looked the best it has in months. This is all to the good.

Gen Neyland

April 12th, 2011
10:20 pm

Well, since the Marlins were the only club to jilt Bobby Cox on a fare-de-well retirement gift last year (if memory serves correctly), good for the Club to make it better. Sweep the Chum in 2011..!

blazerdawg

April 12th, 2011
10:25 pm

RIP Jesse Outlar and condolences to his family. He wrote eloquently about a great time in Atlanta sports history.

Cultural sociologist

April 12th, 2011
10:30 pm

Baseball Tonight took the time to make the point during our quite exemplary highlights that this game tonight drew the smallest crowd in Turner Field HISTORY…13,000 and some change, eh?

Then again, they just now said the same thing about Safeco Field as well…maybe just a sign of the times?

Trainwreck

April 12th, 2011
10:31 pm

Good win for the home team

Jeff Schultz

April 12th, 2011
10:51 pm

Thanks for the comments on the live blog tonight folks. Chipper Jones called this a “perfect game” in the clubhouse and it would be hard to dispute that. … Column has been updated with quotes …. By the way, if you need a good laugh, the Red Sox lost again tonight and they’re 2-9.

Sonny Clusters

April 12th, 2011
10:58 pm

We was happy with the outcome of this game. The Marlins were afraid to pitch to Heyward. Wonder if he should be higher in the order?

5150WTGW

April 12th, 2011
11:08 pm

Careful SCHULTZ there are a Ton of Rex Sox fans in Atlanta area.

Ohmyachingarm

April 12th, 2011
11:10 pm

Good to see Tommy get a win. But is it just me or does anyone else think he doesn’t use his body enough when he pitches? He’s a big kid but it seems like he throws too much with his arm instead of getting his body into it. But I remember when all pitchers wound up & seems like no one does that anymore.

Ueeediot

April 12th, 2011
11:18 pm

It was fun to see the fishes IBB Heyward with 1b open in a game that was already 5-0.
I think Freddie has found a great line up knowing that he doesnt have a 40HR guy in the 4th or 5th spot. With this order, if these guys just get the hits, they will be an RBI machine. We need to be winning 12-15 games each against the fish, mets, and nats if we want a chance to win this division.

Ueeediot

April 12th, 2011
11:21 pm

I think it doesn’t help the Braves attendence tonight when its the first Tuesday game of the season, school is still in session, *and* last week was spring break. Not much push for mom and dad to get the kids out to a ball game 2nd day of school back from the break.
That being said, tomorrow’s game prolly has awesome seats available for the same reason.

Bama Brave

April 12th, 2011
11:22 pm

Good win. no fan support typical huh?……..

Peter in MN

April 12th, 2011
11:27 pm

Well Safeco you can see because the M’s are terrible. Braves are far from terrible.

MitchC

April 12th, 2011
11:32 pm

I dont put too much stock in early season records or performance. The Red Sox 2-9 start doesnt mean that they might not rip off.. a seven game winning streak, and get back to at least 500 at some point.

As for tonight’s Braves win: It was a good, and needed, one, after the disappointing weekend we had against Philly. Tommy Hanson pitched superbly tonight, and we finally got some offense, and some homers.

I dont want to get “greedy” after just one win.. but.. hopefully, tonight will be a prelude to us winning four of six from the Marlins and Mets, because as we know, the schedule after this homestand gets very tough for a while.

MitchC

April 12th, 2011
11:34 pm

I should say.. of course.. winning at least four of six against the Marlins and Mets. (Hopefully we can do better than that, but.. four of six should be the minimum for this team to strive for.

Joe

April 13th, 2011
3:00 am

Someone please tell me why Heyward is still in the 6-hole? So Fredi is a “players manager”. That doesn’t mean he has to be an idiot.

Joe

April 13th, 2011
3:01 am

lineup:

1 Prado
2 Chipper
3 Heyward
4 McCann
5 Uggla
6 – 8 take your pick

Stinger2

April 13th, 2011
5:07 am

Has anyone counted the number of suggested Braves batting orders that have been posted on the AJC blogs since the beginning of the regular season?
No offense meant to Joe or the hundreds of others and you have a right to your opinions but fortunately Fredi will
make his own decisions.

UGAFAN13

April 13th, 2011
7:50 am

This lineup will hit. And how about the leather they flashed last night! I think we saw the first game where it all clicked and the offense and defense feed off each other! GREAT GAME, lets go do again tonight!

Dumbo

April 13th, 2011
7:52 am

Note: If you play GOOD baseball, they will come. Since they Braves have managed to play good every other game and actually hit the ball every 4th game….there’s your answer for lack of fan support. They’ve had the same issues the last 2 years….very average hitting at best, questionable defense and pretty good pitching. Most fans want to see some offense not just good pitching everynight.

Jeff ROCKS!

April 13th, 2011
7:56 am

vermont 39

April 13th, 2011
8:10 am

That’s why W-L is a deceiving statistic…

BravesFaninVR

April 13th, 2011
9:05 am

For everyone wanting to move Heyward up in the lineup, if its not broke dont fix it. I would say he is doing quite well in the sixth spot. I also dont get all the McCloth hate. I’ll admit that he was garbage last year. However if anyone is actually watching the games and not reading the box scores, dude is actually swinging alot better this year. He also made a very nice running catch last night on a ball over his head. I think Braves Nation just needs to chill and let the team come together. I like the lineup and the way Gonzalez is managing the team.

GT71

April 13th, 2011
9:25 am

Please keep mentioning Nate McLouth. He’s doing well – the avg will come. But the sterling play in deep center was terrific and along with Gonzalez (and Freeman’s deft fielding and ‘pickups’) seems to indicate the Braves this year are far better defensively. And the Uggla ‘turn’ on the around-the-horn double play wasn’t shabby either.
The Braves will NOT have many series like the Philly set often this year.
But they must hit all year, pitch well consistantly and keep up the D.
If they do, a wildcard is probable and the title isn’t out of reach.

Bob Leblaw's Law Blog

April 13th, 2011
9:27 am

Sorry BravesFaninVR, I’ve been to 2 games and watched all of them on tv and McLouth is just as bad this year as last year. The “hate” that you don’t seem to be getting is one of our best hitters is going to receive 50-75 AB’s less than one of our worst hitters so that Alex Gonzalez can be protected. And I didn’t realize that 5-6 now means if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I’m excited about this team and I think they’ll be fine but McLouth has to drop in the line up. If he’s that good, FG can let him protect Gonzalez.

Bob Leblaw's Law Blog

April 13th, 2011
9:32 am

I’m fine w/ McLouth in the lineup. Everyone can’t be a great hitter. But he shouldn’t be put in the front of the lineup.

So the avg will come, the OBP will come, the SLP will come……a season plus and I’m still hearing this………..awesome.

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 13th, 2011
9:37 am

At some point, Tommy Hanson probably started wondering if he was doing something wrong.

This was his 3rd start. It’s doubtful that he would be in panic mode.

Bob Leblaw's Law Blog

April 13th, 2011
9:38 am

I think Schultzie meant it’s a carryover from last season. It seems like he was 3-10 with a crazy low ERA over the last half of the season.

Hoosier in ATL

April 13th, 2011
9:41 am

http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/8942/move-jason-heyward-up-in-order

Great article about moving Heyward up in the line-up………………..either move switch him with Chip or McOut.

Hoosier in ATL

April 13th, 2011
9:42 am

Bob Leblaw's Law Blog

April 13th, 2011
9:52 am

hoosier fan?

ATLfan15

April 13th, 2011
9:53 am

@GT71: good comment about the defense. joe simpson mentioned last night that Fredi has them out there taking infield, practicing throws to the cutoff man, etc…something Cox never did apparently. i think that will prove to be the difference in the team defensively this year. even pros need that basic workout to stay sharp in the field.

ATLfan15

April 13th, 2011
9:56 am

and Hanson was hitting his spots last night, unlike the first two starts where he left everything up. even that slider was improved…nice to see him bounce back after a couple of rough outings.

bucket

April 13th, 2011
10:12 am

I would love to see a breakdown in Hanson’s ERA @ home vs. on the road.

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 13th, 2011
10:16 am

bucket

Here you go. Just quick on “quick splits”.

http://braves.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=462102

where are the true fans

April 13th, 2011
10:17 am

That was a great game last night. Every position player got a hit, some more than others. Hanson finally got his run support and hit his spots. Heck even the umpires did a great job, couldn’t complain about a single call, very constant.

where are the true fans

April 13th, 2011
10:19 am

Heyward is good where he is at right now. Lets see how this lineup works for a little while longer. If they start producing the run that we expect great, if not well we’ll worry then

bucket

April 13th, 2011
10:28 am

Thanks Hillbilly! I had been to that page but I guess I didn’t know what I was doing! My gut feeling was not as accurate as I thought about the split between home and away ERA for Hanson. The numbers are much closer than I imagined.

mswerli

April 13th, 2011
11:18 am

line up optimization. Now no more comments about the batting order, its been beaten to death.

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/3/17/795946/optimizing-your-lineup-by

Sid

April 13th, 2011
11:40 am

Rest in Peace Jesse Outlar, God speed

GT Dad

April 13th, 2011
11:45 am

I was at the game and it was the most solid Braves win I think I have ever seen in person. Sadly, there weren’t many of us there – it was eary how empty the stadium was.

Another thing my entire family notices was how welcoming and friendly every single person working there was last night – I mean, every person we passed had words of welcome and a smile and then three shook my hand as we exited the park. Not sure where all that came from, but it was nice.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

April 13th, 2011
11:55 am

JS- what do you think about the attendance last night? The lowest in Turner Field history?? Seems a little depressing to me.

Mark (another one)

April 13th, 2011
1:05 pm

mswerli: Thanks for the link. It was an interesting read, but I wonder a little about their logic. Since they base their study on the base-out situation for different positions in the lineup, that sounds like it is measured from data. But can’t that data be scewed based on the actual lineups used? This study discounts the value of the number 3 hitter, which I have difficulty believing.

If we accept the study, a logical change for the Braves would be to put Heyward at 2 and McLouth at 6, not 8th. Except for last year, McLouth had a good OBP and has speed. Putting him in front of Gonzales and Freeman will give them more RBI opportunities. Moving Heyward to 2 takes advantage of his high OBP and SLG.

All of this over one run over 162 games.

Joe Tess Fish House

April 13th, 2011
1:07 pm

Only 13000 fans? They no what I no that the Braves messed up win they hired a loosing managar.

Waffle House

April 13th, 2011
1:09 pm

Yeah who wants 2 go to Braves game win U no they will most likey loose

BD

April 13th, 2011
1:22 pm

Yea kind of like who wants to read Waffle House’s comments when you know he can’t spell?!

Bernard

April 13th, 2011
1:25 pm

SSSSSSSWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!!!!!!!!

Waffle House

April 13th, 2011
1:47 pm

U got a problem with me BD?