Rookie Andrelton Simmons erases the memory of his first career error by slugging a sixth inning go-ahead, two-run home run to help the Atlanta Braves end the Baltimore Orioles’ five-game winning streak.
For over five innings, Tommy Hanson (7-4, 3.34 ERA) and the Braves defense were battling control and defensive issues, respectively. Hanson labored to hit his spots, loaded the bases in both the second and third innings, and totaled a career-high six walks while on the mound for 5 1/3 innings. Despite his struggles, Hanson was sharp enough to record his 500th career strikeout in the sixth inning when he sent Matt Wieters back to Baltimore’s dugout.
The turning play in the contest came in fourth inning when Simmons made an uncharacteristic error during a routine grounder in the hole from Mark Reynolds when he sailed the ball over Martin Prado, who was making his first start of the season at first base. The error began a two-run rally in the inning anchored by Wilson Betemit’s RBI-double to left center and Steve Pearce’s sacrifice fly to right field to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead.
For two innings, Simmons desperately wanted to make amends for his fourth inning mishap that helped squander a 1-0 lead that Brian McCann created with a 432-foot bomb to right centerfield. The Curacao native redeemed himself by hitting a fastball offering from Orioles starter Brian Matusz (5-7, 4.94 ERA) for a home run that barely cleared the left field wall.
“After I made the error, I felt like it cost us two runs,” Simmons told the Associated Press (AP). “I was trying to make it up to the team and to Tommy.
Matusz, 25, has struggled throughout the year to pitch deep into his starts and Friday was no different. The Orioles left-hander threw 116 pitches, 70 for strikes, in 5 2/3 innings giving up nine hits, three walks, and four earned runs to raise his ERA to 4.94. Before Friday, Matusz had not thrown more than 106 pitches in one game. Simmons’ home run came on the 105th pitch of Matusz’s outing.
“This one’s tough to swallow,” Matusz, who is now 0-6 after seven interleague starts, told the AP. “I felt like I battled throughout the game, making some good pitches to get out of some jams. That sixth inning was tough, getting two outs and then leaving the ball over the plate, giving up the home run and not being able to close out the inning.”
The Braves’ shortstop is quietly proving why he earned the title of Atlanta’s 2011 minor league player of the year. Before replacing fellow shortstop Tyler Pastornicky on June 2, Simmons was known primarily for his defensive prowess in the minors. However, since manager Fredi Gonzalez added the 22-year-old to the Braves’ roster he is hitting .333 with two homers and has five multi-games, including his third against the Orioles on Friday.
After Friday’s win, the Braves are now four games behind the Washington Nationals, who lost to the New York Yankees 7-2, for first place in the NL East. Atlanta will send Brandon Beachy (5-4, 1.98 ERA), the league leader in ERA, to the mound, while Baltimore manager Buck Showalter places his confidence in right-hander Jason Hammel (6-2).
About the Author
Written by Jourdan Shepard
New York born. New Jersey bred. Earned my degree on a Georgia clay hill. "Rooting for my rival is like wanting the house to win in blackjack...."