Hanson strong as Braves take finale
SoCal native goes six innings, yields two runs in sixth victory
SAN DIEGO -- It may have not been "the real Tommy Hanson," but the 22-year-old rookie right-hander was good enough to get the job done Wednesday as the Atlanta Braves beat the San Diego Padres, 6-2, at PETCO Park.
Hanson, pitching in front of more than 100 family and friends in his first game in his native Southern California, allowed two runs on five hits over six innings in improving to 6-2. He walked three, struck out five, gave up a two-run home run to Will Veneable in the sixth and was bailed out by four double plays. He also dropped down two sacrifice bunts.
"Tommy wasn't his best today, and he only gave up two runs," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "And he had some strikeouts, but he wasn't the real Tommy Hanson, I don't think. But we made some good double plays behind him and played a nice ballgame."
Atlanta, which tied a season-high total of 17 hits on Tuesday, banged out 14 hits Wednesday, all singles, with leadoff batter Nate McLouth and Chipper Jones getting three hits apiece.
Catcher Brian McCann collected a two-run single that highlighted a three-run fourth inning off Padres starter and loser Chad Gaudin (4-10).
Braves right fielder Ryan Church, who returned to action after missing six games with a sore right elbow, had two singles and a walk and threw out Chase Headley as he tried to tag up and score from third base on a flyout in the fifth inning.
While Church acknowledged that the TV replay showed that Headley got his foot in safely, he said jokingly, "That's what he got for trying to run on me."
That double play came in the fifth. Kevin Kouzmanoff tied a Padres franchise record by hitting into three double plays -- in the first, fourth and sixth innings.
"There was great defense all game long," said Hanson. "Church, Chipper, [Yunel] Escobar, everyone. That first inning, I was having trouble finding my release point, and I think I was nibbling a little bit and not being aggressive enough. But after that, I tried to settle in and find a release and felt much better."
Hanson took a shutout into the sixth, when he gave up a one-out double to Everth Cabrera and then the home run to Venable.
"That was a case where I tried to go in but left the ball out over the plate," said Hanson. "And he got good wood on it."
"I had over 100 people here today," said Hanson, who lives in Redlands, Calif., about a two-hour ride from San Diego. "I was trying not to think too much about all the familiar voices and all. I was just trying to focus on the game. I knew in the back of my mind to try to get through that first inning."
Hanson walked two batters and gave up an infield single to Venable in the first. However, his batterymate McCann threw out Cabrera trying to steal, and Escobar made a spectacular backhanded stop on Kouzmanoff and started an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
"Any time you get runs early, it takes some pressure off," said Hanson.
The Braves scored one run in the first, two in the second and three in the fourth, when McCann came through with his big two-run single.
"It was a slider and I was looking to be aggressive in that situation," said McCann. "Once we got that lead, I felt pretty good, especially the way our bullpen has been pitching."
After Hanson departed after six innings, Peter Moylan, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano came on to throw three scoreless innings, striking out six Padres and giving the Braves 11 strikeouts on the day.
The Braves, who head up to Los Angeles for a four-game series with the Dodgers, have won 20 of their past 26 meetings with the Padres, posting an 11-4 mark at PETCO Park while hitting 26 home runs and outscoring them, 100-61.
Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.