Posted by Lance Burson on July 18th, 2010
Sleep with one eye open Gripping your pillow tight
Exit light Enter night Take my hand We’re off to never-never land – Metallica
When the song plays and this good ole boy from rural Virginia runs out of the bullpen, you know the other team is gripping. Billy Wagner, the closer for the Atlanta Braves doesn’t just have a cool theme song, he may very well be, with all apologies to second baseman Martin Prado, the Braves most valuable player this season.
Standing, maybe, 5’9″, without spikes, Wagner doesn’t look indtimidating. Yet, his left arm is crippling hitters and has been for 16 seasons. Wagner has been a productive closer for Houston, Philadelphia and New York. His 2010 season in Atlanta, supposedly his final one may be his finest.
This afternoon at Turner Field, the Braves had built an 11-3 lead late in the game. Struggling mop up man Jesse Chavez had been employed to get the final six outs. Suddenly the score was 11-6 in the 9th inning, as Chavez was getting shelled. Billy wagner had not worked for 4 days, and thought he would get another one off. Instead Bobby Cox asked Wagner to come in a non-save situation. Eight pitches later, six of them strikes, Wagner had the final two outs and the Braves earned a split of a four game series with Milwaukee. It was typical Billy Wagner, 2010.
Wagner is 5-0 with 21 saves in 24 opportunites. In 39 games covering 39 innings, he’s struck out 58 hitters. His 0.83 WHIP is his lowest in 11 years, which was his “peak” as a closer with Houston. Arm surgery over a year a go was supposed to have brought on the twilight of Wagner’s career, yet he made the all star team this season after announcing he would retire. He turns 39 year old next week, July 25th.
As the Braves enter the final two months of the season, it will be Billy Wagner who decides how much of a factor the Braves will be late in games against Philadelphia and New York.