Hanson fights off flu in masterful victory
Rookie phenom turns out lights on Sox in dominating start
ATLANTA -- Given the opportunity to make consecutive starts against the Yankees and Red Sox, Tommy Hanson certainly didn't envision his greatest challenge during this span would be the flu-like symptoms that wrecked his energy most of this past weekend.
When Braves manager Bobby Cox went home late Saturday night, he was under the impression there was little chance he'd be able to send Hanson to the mound for the series finale against the Red Sox.
But after Atlanta completed its three-game set with a 2-1 win over Boston on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field, Cox was among the many singing the praises of Hanson, who had once again proven that his talented right arm stands as just one of the attributes that makes his future so bright.
"He's got great poise," Chipper Jones said. "You can have all the stuff in the world, but if you have a rock for a brain and not real good nerves, this game is going to get the best of you."
Provided Jones' first-inning homer and the decisive solo shot that Garret Anderson delivered in the fourth inning, Hanson provided the finest effort of his young Major League career during a game that he and many others felt would be played without his services.
As they were driving to the park Sunday morning, Hanson told his roommate and good friend Kris Medlen to be prepared to start. The fever and congestion that has filled his head throughout the previous few days wouldn't subside until the Braves' medical staff worked some hydrating magic about three hours before the scheduled first pitch.
"Once I got out there and the adrenaline started pumping, I felt fine," said Hanson, who allowed two hits and provided even more reason for encouragement by issuing just two walks over six scoreless innings.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hanson is the first National League rookie pitcher to beat both the Red Sox and Yankees in consecutive starts. The 22-year-old right-hander blanked New York over 5 1/3 innings Tuesday and will now take a 20-inning scoreless streak into his Fourth of July start against the Nationals in Washington D.C.
"Facing them and getting two wins is definitely awesome, especially back-to-back, too," said Hanson, who has seen the Braves win each of the first five games he's started in his career.
Widely considered the game's top right-handed prospect, Hanson has proven that he's unfazed by the lofty expectations or challenges presented by some of the game's most imposing lineups. While he routinely escaped trouble against the Yankees, he blanked the Red Sox with pure dominance.
"If he was sick, I don't really want to see him when he's not sick," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose team was held hitless until Jason Bay and David Ortiz delivered consecutive two-out hits in the fourth inning.
Damaged by the only hits he'd surrender amid the stifling hot conditions, Hanson then walked Jason Varitek before ending the fourth-inning threat with a Jacoby Ellsbury groundout.
That inning marked the sixth time in a span of four starts that opponents have loaded the bases against Hanson and come up empty. During his past four starts, the determined right-hander has allowed just two hits in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"He gets focused," Cox said of Hanson, who is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA. "All of that plays into his game. His mound presence is really good."
Having issued 14 walks in his previous 18 2/3 innings, Hanson found the strike zone with 63 of his 97 pitches. When asked if his limited energy played a part in his ability to slow his delivery, he said that his improved control was more a product of conversations with Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell.
"I think I was just being more aggressive and trusting my stuff more," Hanson said. "The times I got in trouble, I wasn't doing that. Then the times that I'd get in trouble, I had to do that."
After the fourth inning, the Braves didn't encounter another potentially damaging situation until Kelly Johnson misplayed a couple of seventh-inning grounders. With a two-pitch appearance, however, Peter Moylan was able to induce the Nick Green double-play groundout that erased that threat.
Afterward, Johnson's decision not to throw to second base on David Ortiz's potential game-ending double-play grounder extended the ninth inning long enough for Varitek to deliver an RBI single. Mike Gonzalez then quickly righted himself and preserved Hanson's gem with a strikeout of Ellsbury.
"Today was probably the best that I've seen [Hanson] execute his pitches," Jones said. "He knows with his stuff, if he executes his pitches, he can get anybody out."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.