A long and painful night ends with a walk-off Braves win

On a winning night, another essential man was lost. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

On a winning night, another essential man was lost. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This is painful. The Braves are straining for the postseason and collapsing before our eyes. They’re trying to  gain ground while losing men, and it’s excruciating to behold.

The final week of a six-month regular season — seems as if it has lingered six years, no? — began Monday at Turner Field. The Braves faced Florida trailing the Padres by a half-game for the wild-card lead, and as the evening progressed the home side learned that the National League East, which they’d led for 99 days, had been won by another team. (The unbelievably terrific Phillies clinched behind Roy Halladay.)

That meant one of the two avenues to the playoffs had been officially closed, not that much hope of winning the division remained after getting swept last week in Philadelphia. It now has to be the wild card or nothing, and the Braves went out and produced only a bit more than nothing over nine innings.

Brian McCann hit a home run in the fourth, and it was as if the rest of the team turned to Tommy Hanson and said, “There’s your run. Use it wisely.” And Hanson, who was splendid in a no-decision in Philly, was every bit as good this night. But that doesn’t mean he was the winning pitcher. He did the unthinkable. He yielded a run.

Yielded it on a bloop double to catcher Brad Davis, who was hitting .220 and who’d already struck out and hit into a double play, in the eighth inning. That’s how little margin for error any Braves pitcher has nowadays. One bloop and your victory goes ka-blooey.

Being the Braves, they flirted with a walk-off victory in the ninth. They loaded the bases for Jason Heyward, and a chilly night became Opening Day with the chant of “Let’s Go, Heyward!” resounding throughout Turner Field. But the rookie couldn’t oblige this time. He grounded to the pitcher, and a long night — the game was delayed an hour by rain — got longer still.

It wasn’t just long in terms of duration. It was long in the sense that Martin Prado, who has been the Braves’ best everyday player in 2010, managed to make both the fielding swoop of the year — a soaring backhanded grab to thwart Dan Uggla in the fourth — and maybe the most damaging out.

Prado grounded to the pitcher to end the fifth but didn’t make it out of the batter’s box. He collapsed in a rather inelegant heap and was escorted, gingerly, to the clubhouse. Later came the announcement: Prado had suffered a hip pointer in denying Uggla and had aggravated it while swinging. He was listed as the standard “day to day,” but with a chilling postscript: “He is still being evaluated.”

In August the Braves lost Kris Medlen and Chipper Jones. Last week Jair Jurrjens couldn’t make a start. Now Prado goes down in the season’s 157th game. Questions abound: Can the Braves possibly win a wild card without their fill-in third baseman and, if so, will they have enough healthy bodies to fill out a batting order this time next week?

The longer this game went, the more important it seemed. The Padres and Cubs were scoreless on the Coast, and surely the Braves couldn’t afford to cede any more ground. Derrek Lee almost won it in the 10th, but his towering drive was gloved on the warning track. Then it was the 11th and Nate McLouth worked a leadoff walk and moved over on Alex Gonzalez’s bunt, and now it was the other prize rookie with a chance to be the walk-off winner.

A wild pitch by Jose Veras moved McLouth to third, but Freddie Freeman struck out looking. That left it to Omar Infante, and he drove a 3-2 fastball into left field for a precious victory. But then the press trooped down to the manager’s office for the grimmer tidings: “Prado’s definitely going to be out a while,” Bobby Cox said.

Out a while. And five regular-season games remain. Yikes.

Update, 12:55 a.m.: The Padres, who have offensive issues themselves, lost 1-0 to the Cubs. The Braves lead the wild-card race by a half-game.

249 comments Add your comment

Mark

September 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

I’m just weary…..

Mark

September 27th, 2010
11:45 pm

Mike S

September 27th, 2010
11:47 pm

Guts and determination… will they be enough for this now worn out and short handed bunch?

bob

September 27th, 2010
11:48 pm

had to win, and did.

Andres

September 27th, 2010
11:49 pm

thank you baseball god shessh. talk about an offensive display lol. hopefuly prado isnt seriously hurt.

John S.

September 27th, 2010
11:50 pm

I’m with ya, Mark. I’ve gotten my exercise this summer jumping on and off the bandwagon. Right now I’m clinging to it with four fingers (can’t commit the thumb at the moment). But hey, BRAVES WIN!!!

mamfp

September 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

they are fighting!!… i don`t wanna hear anybody saying this team lacks passion… they are fighting…

wade

September 27th, 2010
11:51 pm

great article Mark…Go Cubbies

schroeder

September 27th, 2010
11:52 pm

I wore my ‘91 braves jacket today.
Lord knows the temperature may rise back up, but that jacket will not come off until the season ends.
A win is a win

Martin the Calvinist

September 27th, 2010
11:52 pm

I still believe! Go Braves!

Alan

September 27th, 2010
11:53 pm

Could you imagine what kind of story it would be if Glaus filled in for Prado and these guys won it all. Hollywood stuff. With everything that has gone wrong this year we have still won games. I wouldn’t expect that to change.

Mike S

September 27th, 2010
11:53 pm

Cubbies 1 Padres 0 end of 7.

beachcomber

September 27th, 2010
11:54 pm

Schroeder – I’m with you. Trotted out my circa ‘95 Mark Lemke #20 sweat stained t-shirt. Like your jacket, it ain’t coming off!

Aaron

September 27th, 2010
11:55 pm

Look on the bright side, if the Braves don’t make the playoffs, he only missed five games.

If they do make the playoffs, he will have time to recover and lead us to victory when it matter even more.

Braves WIN, Braves, WIN, Braves...NEVERMIND

September 27th, 2010
11:57 pm

Lee is NOT the answer, nor is Fredy Freeman. Go back to Troy Glaus.
And what is up with Bobby and the line-up. It’s seems everytime we have runner(s) on we have TWO outs. Change the lineup, will you.

And another major gaff not shuffling our starters vs Philadelphia.

I will be so glad when the wife beating nose picker retires.

JEB

September 27th, 2010
11:57 pm

I play Glaus @ 3b now.
He should have his legs back under him
and he has been a great 3rd baseman.
He just might be the spark in the line up
we need now.
The one who got us in to 1st to start with,
could be the guy who takes us the big games!

clay

September 27th, 2010
11:57 pm

No bashing this week of anyone in the organization. Its guts and glory time. Get behind the braves and put em in the postseason. Anything can happen guys. Cant wait to be horse tomorrow night after the game. Thank You Bobby for all the great years and memories. Oh yeah and one other thing….Lets go Cubbies

GTMustang

September 27th, 2010
11:58 pm

Just saw footage from the Phillies clubhouse tonight with the champagne and NL East championship shirts on.

What could have been…

The Braves don’t have the horses to get into the playoffs. And if they do, they’ll be swept in their first playoff series.

Good bye Bobby and Good bye 2010 Braves.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2010
11:58 pm

I don’t know who’s going to play third base now.

Where’s Hound Dog Presley?

kerryb

September 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

With the injuries this team has had in the last month and a half it is a miracle they are still in it.

E-6

September 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

Yep, it will be interesting to see what kind of line up Mr. Cox trots out there tomorrow night.

BaseballBuff

September 27th, 2010
11:59 pm

Way to go Bravos. Way to grind out a win!!!!

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2010
12:00 am

It is amazing, kerryb.

JD Sturgis

September 28th, 2010
12:00 am

mamfp they are fighting ,but are they really Phighting GO PHILLIE’S 2010 NLE Champ’s

kerryb

September 28th, 2010
12:01 am

I will proud of them if they make it but, I don’t expect for them to be in it for long. They have just about nobody left.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:01 am

Have to go with Conrad.

At least he has a little pop.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:03 am

Braves with about half the payroll pushed the Philles to game 156 before they clinched.

Really not that bad.

kerryb

September 28th, 2010
12:04 am

Makes you kind of wonder what would have happened if Chipper didn’t get hurt. He was swinging the bat better than he had the last two years.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:04 am

6 outs to go in San Diego.

Zambrano pitching a gem.

Braves WIN, Braves, WIN, Braves...NEVERMIND

September 28th, 2010
12:05 am

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:03 am
Braves with about half the payroll pushed the Philles to game 156 before they clinched.

Yeah, well the Braves are RAISING ticket prices next year. What are they doing with all that money? Sell the team to someone that will spend the money for top line players.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:05 am

Chippers injury really hurt.

Medlen hurt just as much. He was really coming on strong.

count_schemula

September 28th, 2010
12:06 am

Clearly, Bob Horner at 3b.

kerryb

September 28th, 2010
12:06 am

Wrenn is going to have to find a long term fix for the outfield in the offseason. Tired of makeshift solutions to the problem.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:06 am

Sell the team to someone that will spend the money for top line players.

We can dream. Wish Ted still owned the team. Things would be different I assure you.

P. Bull Terrier

September 28th, 2010
12:06 am

Looking at the Braves line-up in the 9th inning, it looked like Cox had already used up all of his bench players by putting them in the line-up. Then the TV broadcast showed a list of all of the Braves players who were still left and I realized two things: first, the Braves had plenty of players still available, and second, this really is a team full of almost nothing but bench players.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:08 am

Eckstein up for the Padres.

Watch him get on.

kerryb

September 28th, 2010
12:08 am

If you look at San Diegos lineup they don’t look much better than us.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:08 am

5 outs to go

Bravissimo

September 28th, 2010
12:09 am

How serious is a hip pointer? Id rather see Conrad at third, Glaus used to be great at 3rd…but that was THEN and this is NOW.
What a gutsy game by the Falcons! and the Bears are 3-0!!

Mike S

September 28th, 2010
12:09 am

Braves WIN – if you hate the braves that much, why not just STFU and go root for someone else. Your venom and naysaying is getting rather annoying.

Braves WIN, Braves, WIN, Braves...NEVERMIND

September 28th, 2010
12:13 am

Mike S

September 28th, 2010
12:09 am
Braves WIN – if you hate the braves that much, why not just STFU and go root for someone else. Your venom and naysaying is getting rather annoying.

Guess again douchbag. I’ve had dugout season tickets since 1982 – where’s YOUR money to talk. ONE World Series in how many seasons.

Get your Braves koolaide elsewhere. You can accept poor managing all you want.

You’re probably a Bulldog fan…arf, arf.

kbatuc

September 28th, 2010
12:15 am

Mike S

September 28th, 2010
12:15 am

I bet all the people sitting around you really love that Mr. Sunshine.

Milo

September 28th, 2010
12:15 am

Do you think they might get 26,000 ACTUAL fans for tom nights game? Maybe even make some noise in the FIRST inning? I am hoping for a 12-2 ballgame.

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:16 am

You’re probably a Bulldog fan…arf, arf.

I am.

kbatuc

September 28th, 2010
12:16 am

C’mon Cubbies!!!!!!!

GP

September 28th, 2010
12:16 am

TP could play third…he already has a uniform…just saying

Headley Lamar

September 28th, 2010
12:16 am

Guess again douchbag. I’ve had dugout season tickets since 1982 – where’s YOUR money to talk. ONE World Series in how many seasons.

Thats as many as the Phillies have since 1982.

Bill Donohoo

September 28th, 2010
12:18 am

My wife my son and me are exhausted. Great game,even greater ending.

Bravos33

September 28th, 2010
12:18 am

Well, we had to win, and we did it. I for one will be extremely proud of this bunch if they find a way to gutout this final week and push themselves into the postseason. That, by many measures, is a great success. And hey, once you get there, anything can happen. With Hanson and Lowe going the way they are, if you can get Huddy tuned up, we could still be dangerous if we get a few guys swinging the bat.

Keep the faith. Go Braves!