Kawakami solid, but still searching for win

Kawakami solid, but still searching for win

ATLANTA -- Despite denying himself a chance to record his first win by surrendering a game-tying, two-run seventh-inning home run in Sunday afternoon's 5-2 win over the Pirates, Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami left Turner Field with reason to be satisfied after another strong effort.

"It's the better start," Kawakami said through an interpreter. "It's a better start than most starts. But if we ended up losing, that home run would have been stuck in my head."

Luckily for Kawakami and the Braves, pinch-hitter Chipper Jones hit a game-winning single to prevent such a headache. But if nothing else, Kawakami can take condolence in his performances of late. Sure, he hasn't won at Turner Field since May 22, 2009, and hasn't won a start of any kind since August of last season, but during his past three starts, the Japanese hurler has posted a 2.47 ERA and allowed just 16 hits in 18 2/3 innings.

The Braves offense hasn't afforded him much help -- averaging the sixth-lowest run support of all National League starting pitchers entering Sunday at 2.74 runs per game. Against the Pirates on Sunday, Kawakami got two runs before he exited during the seventh inning.

Further, as Jones acknowledged, Kawakami made seemingly one bad pitch during his outing, the two-seam fastball which Pirates first baseman Jeff Clement blasted to right field for a homer.

"It just goes to show you, you can't let up no matter who you're playing, no matter who you're facing," Jones said. "It's unfortunate. [Kawakami] deserved to win. We're trying like heck to get him that first [win]. I think he'll tell you he's happy. He kept us in the game and allowed us to win it late."

-- Chris Hempson