ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Chuck James had a predictable reaction to his first major league win.
“It’s awesome,” the 24-year-old Atlanta left-hander said after beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4-1 on Sunday. “I was pretty nervous coming in here.”
It didn’t show.
In his first big league start, James took a one-hitter into the seventh inning and was so good that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon jokingly said: “Their guy, Glavine, pitched a great game today.”
Braves manager Bobby Cox wasn’t surprised.
“If you look at his stats all through his minor league career, they would knock your eyes out. You saw why,” Cox said. “He’s hard to pick up, and he throws the ball by people. He’s got an outstanding changeup. And he’s not afraid. He goes right after them.”
James (1-0) limited the Devil Rays to Julio Lugo’s first-inning infield hit until Ty Wigginton doubled with two outs in the seventh and scored on Damon Hollins’ pop-fly double that glanced off shortstop Wilson Betemit’s glove in shallow left field.
In taking two of three from the Devil Rays, Atlanta won a series for the first time since sweeping the Chicago Cubs 26-28.
Two of Tampa Bay’s three hits off James, recalled from Triple-A Richmond before the game, very well could have been ruled errors—and Betemit figured in both plays.
The shortstop fielded Lugo’s first-inning grounder, but his hurried throw arrived to first baseman Adam LaRoche on one hop as Lugo crossed the bag. Betemit caught up to Hollins’ pop fly in the seventh and called for the ball, but was unable to make the running, backhanded catch.
“Those were errors,” Cox said before being corrected by a reporter. “They gave them hits? You’re kidding.”
James finished with eight strikeouts and four walks in eight innings. The left-hander gave his catcher part of the credit for his performance.
“Pratt called an awesome game. I just threw what he called,” James said. “Probably most of it was him.”
James made seven relief appearances for the Braves before going on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring sustained against the New York Mets on May 5. He was activated from the DL on June 7 and optioned to Richmond, where he was 1-0 with a 2.67 ERA before being recalled.
Jorge Sosa pitched the ninth for his first save this season and the second of his career.
The game was delayed 19 minutes during the bottom of the third because of a power outage at Tropicana Field. James had walked three and hit a batter with a pitch up to that point, but pitched much better after the interruption.
James struck out three of his first four batters after play resumed and retired 13 straight before Wigginton doubled in the seventh.
“I thought he came back a little more relaxed,” Maddon said.
Hendrickson allowed four runs and eight hits in eight innings. He struck out five and walked two.
Giles delivered his sacrifice fly in the third. Pratt homered after Betemit singled and LaRoche walked in the seventh.
“That was huge,” Cox said of Pratt’s second homer of the season, which made it 4-0. “Trying to protect a one-run lead in a park like this is tough.”
James is the ninth starting pitcher Atlanta has used this season. … Braves RHP John Smoltz (right groin strain) threw off a bullpen mound. His status for a scheduled start Wednesday against the New York Yankees remained uncertain. … Devil Rays CF Rocco Baldelli and C Toby Hall had the day off. … Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford has 26 stolen bases and is five shy of becoming the eighth player since 1900 to steal 200 before age 25. Crawford, a two-time AL steals champion, turns 25 on Aug. 5.