Saturday, July 7, 2012
Hudson sinks Phils, spoils Howard's return
Ryan Howard was back in the lineup for the Philadelphia Phillies for the first time since last year’s playoffs, but strong pitching and a late rally by the Atlanta Braves spoiled his return.
The game was a scoreless tie until the eighth inning, when the Braves scored five runs on a bases-loaded walk and Brian McCann grand slam. It was the second grand slam of the season for McCann, with both coming against the Phillies.
McCann has nine career grand slams, with one as a pinch hitter and eight while he was behind the plate. According to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, his eight grand slams as a catcher are tied for fourth among backstops who debuted in the last 50 years. Mike Piazza leads the way among catchers with 14.
Tim Hudson picked up the win for the Braves by tossing seven scoreless innings. Hudson was able to get outs early in the count. Fourteen batters saw only one or two pitches, and six of his seven innings were completed in 12 or fewer pitches.
He averaged 3.04 pitches per plate appearance, his lowest in a game since September 2009. Hudson did not record a strikeout, and induced just three swings-and-misses, tied for the fewest in his past 48 starts.
The key pitch for Hudson on Friday was his sinker. He threw the sinker 47 times out of his 79 pitches. That 57 percent usage was well above his average of 41 percent of pitches over the past two seasons. The sinker averaged 10.3 inches of horizontal break, his most in a game since May 2010.
Hudson’s outing spoiled the return of Howard to the Philadelphia lineup. He doubled to the centerfield warning track in his first at-bat and singled in the seventh. That marks the third straight year that Howard has recorded a multi-hit game in his first game of the season.
Kyle Kendrick pitched seven shutout innings for the Phillies, his first quality start since May. But the call to the bullpen marked the end of Philadelphia’s pitching success.
Antonio Bastardo allowed five runs in the eighth inning. He has allowed 17 runs in 28⅔ innings this season. That’s the same number of runs he allowed in 58 innings while compiling a 6-1 record last season.
In 2011, the slider was the money pitch for Bastardo. In 70 at-bats that ended with the pitch, he allowed only nine hits (.129). McCann’s grand slam came on a slider, the 10th hit that Bastardo has allowed on a slider already this season in 46 at-bats.