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AZ 10, Braves 9 - The Lows and Highs

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Record: 23-18. Change on last season: -1

We're only one-quarter of the way through the season, but we've already had our share of memorable contests. It seems that every series this year has had an astonishing game - and this set against the Braves certainly qualified. A five-run advantage for the Braves, before we even got to bat, turned into a eighth-inning lead for Arizona, but became a deficit again in the ninth, before morphing back into a ninth-inning win. Just your average night at the ballpark.

It certainly started disastrously too. The game after Juan Cruz allowed nine runs without escaping the first inning, Miguel Batista followed suit. Seven Braves reached base, and five of them crossed home, mostly on a grand-slam into the pool area for LaRoche. Batista threw 45 pitches before getting the third out, and the Arizona bullpen bent over, took its trousers down, and braced itself for impact.

Then something odd happened: Batista stopped the bleeding. After allowing five hits and two walks in the first frame, he allowed only three hits and one walk over the five which followed. Meanwhile, our offense chipped away at the deficit, slowly but surely. Gonzo singled in the bottom of the first: 5-1. Estrada hit a sacrifice fly in fourth: 5-2. Gonzalez again, and another sac. fly by Jackson in the fifth: 5-4. And finally, DaVanon hit a three-run homer in the sixth, to make it a 7-5 game.

But this was just the start. Atlanta came back, scoring one in the seventh; we answered, with an RBI single by Estrada. We should, however, have had much more: Hudson came up with the bases loaded and no-one out, a golden chance to reset his RBI watch. Hell, even a double-play would have scored a run. Except, of course, the 3B to catcher variety, which Hudson grounded into. Estrada was then thrown out at the plate, trying to score from second on a single by pinch-hitter Easley.

Lyon came in for the eighth, and was uncharacteristically wobbly. He allowed three hits and a walk in an inning, with Chipper Jones' two-run single tying the game at eight. While we put our leadoff man, Counsell, aboard in our half of the inning, DaVanon's bunt attempt popped up, and Tracy grounded into a double-play. All these failures seemed destined to haunt us, when the Braves scored off Valverde in the ninth; he too allowed three hits, giving Atlanta the lead.

But after you've come back from five runs behind, what's one more? Gonzalez doubled, and though Jackson popped out, Shawn Green doubled home the tying run. The Braves closer Reitsma - probably wisely - walked Estrada, but then hit pinch-hitter Tony Clark to load the bases, and Craig Counsell came through in the clutch to drive Green in from second to score the winner.

Not pretty, perhaps, especially from a pitching point of view (sixteen hits and five walks in nine innings = yuck), but this team's heart never stops beating until the last out. Three hits each for Counsell, Gonzalez, and Jackson; a pair for DaVanon, including that big home-run that changed the momentum in the sixth, completing the comeback. I'm genuinely keen to see what the Fangraph for this game looks like, but it's not yet available at time of writing. Wouldn't be surprised if the wild swings in fortune had caused the Fangraph computers to blow a fuse! I'll get to that tomorrow.

Another season high for comments, and who can blame us? :-) azshadowwalker, npineda, William K, azdb7, VIII and Spencer all chipped in, for which, my thanks. I'm also pleased to see a healthy crowd at Chase Field: 25,056 is the best Friday-night figure of the year so far (admittedly, in only three such games!), and it was undeniably a pretty damn exciting contest. The Arizona fans, at least, will have left with smiles on their faces - we return to the top of the division once more, thanks to Seattle beating San Diego.

And with Webb going up tomorrow against an almost complete unknown - even among Braves fans, from what I can tell - I'm hopeful this won't be a 24-hour stay at #1 like last time. Mind you, it would be helpful if we could avoid giving the opposition a five-run start this time. Is that too much to ask?