Hanson pitches Braves past Marlins
Braves manager Bobby Cox had a quick answer when asked how Tommy Hanson returned to his winning form.
``Strike one,'' Cox said.
Hanson made an adjustment in his delivery and, relying on first-pitch strikes, did not give up an earned run in his recovery from back-to-back ugly losses, leading Atlanta to a 4-1 win over the Florida Marlins on Saturday.
Hanson (8-5) allowed five hits and an unearned run with eight strikeouts and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The second-year right-hander's return to form came after he yielded a combined 15 runs in two straight losses while failing to make it out of the fourth inning in both starts.
By Cox's count, Hanson threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 29 batters. He threw 106 pitches, including 71 for strikes.
``That's huge for him. I think that's the key to pitching to begin with,'' Cox said of Hanson's success when pitching ahead in the count.
``He had his overpowering stuff today,'' Cox said.
Hanson made an adjustment in his delivery after studying video with pitching coach Roger McDowell, who noticed the right-hander wasn't starting with his motion high enough. As a result of starting his delivery from a lower point, Hanson's pitches were drifting too high in his last two starts.
Hanson said part of his problem was mental.
``I think I just got away from trusting my stuff a little bit, trying to go out there and make a perfect pitch,'' he said. ``I just tried to stay aggressive.
``I think that's the biggest thing I could take away from those two bad outings: Just trust my stuff and stay aggressive.''
Hanson, who has never lost more than two consecutive decisions, struck out four straight batters in the sixth and seventh. He is 3-0 in four career starts against Florida.
``He wasn't striking out anybody early, but he made adjustments,'' said Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez of Hanson. ``We didn't make adjustments.''
Billy Wagner, who had a blown save in the Braves' 4-3 win over Florida on Friday night, pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save.
With a rare 4:10 p.m. start, a shadow between the pitcher's mound and home plate was a factor for both teams.
``Everybody was struggling,'' Rodriguez said.
The NL East-leading Braves (48-33) moved a season-best 15 games over .500 at the midpoint of their season. They are 6-2 on their nine-game homestand.
The Marlins have lost three straight.
``We had our opportunities,'' Ross said. ``We just couldn't get anything going. Every time we had runners on, we hit into a double play, struck out or something.
``We need to pick it up. Losing against these guys is not good. They're in first place, running away with it.''
The Braves took a 4-1 lead in the fourth on three straight run-scoring hits off Anibal Sanchez by Omar Infante, Yunel Escobar and Blanco. Escobar's double to right-center drove in Brian McCann, who reached on an infield hit. Blanco's single to center drove in Infante and Escobar.
Infante, who had the game-winning hit in the Braves' 4-3 win in 11 innings Friday night, had two hits.
Anibal Sanchez gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings. He gave up more than three runs in a game for only the third time in his last 14 starts, but each of the three are in his last six outings.
``He kept us in the game, but we have to score some runs,'' Rodriguez said.
Florida scored an unearned run in the second. Hanson hit Ross with a pitch. Ross stole second and advanced to third on McCann's throwing error. Second baseman Martin Prado dropped Ronny Paulino's popup for an error, allowing Ross to score.
NOTES: Atlanta 1B Eric Hinske moved in from LF, where he has made 31 starts, to give Troy Glaus, who has a sore left knee, a day off. ... Florida called up INF Donnie Murphy from Triple-A New Orleans before the game. INF Brian Barden, who was hitting .179 in 28 at-bats, was designated for assignment. ... Rodriguez said Paulino, who made his 24th straight start at catcher, will be given a rest Sunday when Brett Hayes starts.