Atlanta's three-headed lefthanded monster

Fredi Gonzalez has plenty of lefties to make Charlie Manuel's mind spin. (David Goldman/AP Photo)

ATLANTA -- Aside from Antonio Bastardo, who tied a team record for relievers with six consecutive strikeouts and is quite possibly the most intriguing revelation in the season's first seven games, the nastiest pitcher Friday was Jonny Venters.

The 26-year-old Braves lefthander faced but one batter, Raul Ibanez. It was the eighth inning, two outs and a runner was on second in a three-run game.

Venters didn't throw Ibanez one strike, but he still fanned in a four-pitch at-bat. Venters started Ibanez off with a 95 m.p.h. sinker that didn't sink and Ibanez took for ball one. Then, Venters threw three sliders all low, away and well out of the zone that Ibanez swung right through.

Get used to seeing Venters along with Eric O'Flaherty and George Sherrill. I wrote about it in Saturday's notebook. Atlanta has three lefties and it's no coincidence, Charlie Manuel says.

And why should Atlanta not want three lefties? When the Phillies are at their best, they will rely on three lefthanded bats in the lineup to drive in runs. Having those three lefties will allow Fredi Gonzalez the chance to play matchup in many of the 17 remaining games between the two division rivals.

Friday was the first example.

Here's how those lefthanded batters (Ryan Howard and Chase Utley included) have fared against the three Atlanta southpaws:

Venters: 1 for 9, 4 K
Sherrill: 0 for 1, 1 K, 2 BB
O'Flaherty: 1 for 8, 3 K, 2 BB

Venters: 3 for 6, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
Sherrill: 3 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI
O'Flaherty: 0 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 K

Venters: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 BB
Sherrill: 0 for 3, 2 K, 1 BB
O'Flaherty: 3 for 10, 1 RBI, 1 K, 2 BB

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