David Hale had the kind of debut that most only dream of. His first major league start was in his favorite team’s stadium just 20 minutes from his hometown of Marietta, Georgia, where he had spent much of his childhood cheering for the Braves. Not many players get to make their first start at a stadium they had visited many times as a fan, and even those who do rarely have an outing as stellar as Hale did in last night’s contest against the San Diego Padres.
Hale set the Braves’ franchise strikeout record for rookie pitchers, fanning nine batters in his first five innings, allowing four hits and no runs. To put it simply, he was dealing. A solo home run off the bat of Justin Upton and a two run shot from Brian McCann gave Hale a 3-0 edge in his first start, and after being taken out in the 5th was in line for his first win.
But the usually dominant Braves bullpen was not able to hold the lead for the young starter. The Braves sent six relievers to the mound in the remaining four innings. After a two run 7th inning, Jordan Walden came on in the 8th to try to preserve the then 3-2 lead. But after allowing a solo home run to Chase Headley, the game was tied and Hale was no longer in line for his first win. Scott Downs let up the game deciding single in the 8th, giving the Padres a 4-3 lead, appearing in his first game since fracturing his finger just six days before.
The Braves were hoping to whittle their magic number down to at least five last night, but after the Nationals continued their win streak, the number still sits dauntingly at six. They have two more games left against the Padres, who they are 0-4 against this year.