Hanson dodges trouble to notch first win
McCann's four-hit performance snaps Braves' losing streak
BALTIMORE -- Tommy Hanson didn't rack up double-digit strikeouts, string together inning after inning of zeroes or elicit raves from the batters he faced. Truth be told, the phenom's first Major League victory wasn't really a thing of beauty.
At least now the hype and hoopla that accompanied him to the big leagues have some tangible success for company. For Hanson, that hard-earned W means the world.
Hanson wasn't sharp in his second Major League start, though he pitched well enough to snag his first victory and halt Atlanta's two-game losing streak. The rookie right-hander dodged early trouble, then settled down to allow two runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Braves' 7-2 Interleague win over the Orioles on Friday night.
"Whether I dominate or don't dominate, I want to go out and win the game," said Hanson, wiping away the remnants of a celebratory shaving cream pie, courtesy of teammate Peter Moylan, from his face. "Obviously, I would like to dominate, you know what I'm saying? That's the whole goal when I go out to pitch, but to go out and get my first win and to help the team win is good enough right now."
Yunel Escobar hit a two-run homer in the first inning and the Braves scored twice in the fifth to snap a 2-2 tie en route to their fourth win in six games. Atlanta loaded the bases against Baltimore starter Jason Berken before Brian McCann's single up the middle provided a 3-2 lead, chasing the rookie right-hander. Matt Albers relieved and walked Garret Anderson on a 3-2 pitch, forcing in a run.
But it was Hanson's ability to adjust to a fastball-hitting Baltimore team by throwing more changeups than he did in his first start on Sunday -- when, by his count, he used one in a game where he was saddled for seven runs (six earned) in six innings. Hanson didn't get frustrated when home-plate umpire Mike Reilly's strike zone squeezed those pitches for balls that got Hanson through the jams. And Hanson was constantly wiggling out of trouble until he was removed after allowing two runs on nine hits, walking five and striking out five.
"He didn't have his very best stuff, maybe, but he did grind it out and that's the sign of a great competitor and a guy that can adjust on the mound a little bit," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He was around the plate all night, he wasn't wild at all. He's just going to get better and better."
Hanson (1-0) was fortunate to escape the first inning with Baltimore scoring only once. He allowed a leadoff double to Brian Roberts, who stole third and scored on an Adam Jones grounder to second. The Orioles then loaded the bases on an infield hit and two walks before Hanson caught Oscar Salazar looking at a third strike to end the rally.
"They came out swinging the bats in the first inning, and [Hanson] threw a lot of offspeed pitches," said McCann, who had four hits in the win. "The first inning, you usually like to get in a rhythm of establishing his fastball, and we weren't able to do that tonight because this team is such a good fastball-hitting team. They showed us early on what they were going to do."
McCann, who spent much of Spring Training with Team USA preparing for the World Baseball Classic, was catching Hanson for the first time. He learned about his new batterymate on the fly and noticed no signs of the right-hander getting flustered, explaining that Hanson's body language, which suggested frustration, wasn't that at all.
"That's his way of relocking back in, I think," McCann explained. "Even from early on, from warming him up, you can tell he puts all his effort into every single pitch. He likes to execute every single pitch."
Baltimore tied it in the third when Jones singled, stole second and scored on Aubrey Huff's single to left.
But the Braves' two-spot in the fifth gave them the lead for good and chased Berken, who was charged with four runs on eight hits, walked one and struck out three.
An RBI single by Jeff Francoeur in the seventh and Martin Prado's third homer, a solo shot leading off the eighth, made it 6-2. Later in the eighth, McCann added a run-scoring single, his fourth hit of the night, for a five-run cushion.
"That might have been the thing in the background, the fact that we went out and scored seven runs. That's something that we haven't done a lot of. It was nice to get him an early lead," McCann said.
Also lost in Hanson's triumph was a stellar effort by the Atlanta bullpen. When Hanson was pulled with the bases loaded in the sixth, Moylan came on to fan Jones for the third out. After a scoreless inning by Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh, Rafael Soriano wiggled out of a bases-loaded situation in the eighth and Mike Gonzalez worked a scoreless ninth.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.