As planned, ALDLAND conducted a show of force during the Braves’ home-opening week, making our presence felt during game three of each series, which were played against the Mets and Nationals.
Although Atlanta lost that game and the series to the Mets that Thursday night, the game was a sign of things to come for the Braves. Three players merit attention in this respect:
- B.J. Upton – The elder Upton’s struggles are well-publicized and well-known, but he seemed to break out, at least for a moment. Because Commodawg really wanted multiple Hank Aaron giveaway bobbleheads, we were at the park early enough to see some of batting practice. What we did not realize was that Chipper Jones had swung by to give B.J. some batting tips. These appeared to pay off when he knocked a triple in the third inning. He restored equilibrium during the Mets’ first plate appearance of the fifth inning when he misjudged a fly ball, allowing Eric Young, Jr. to triple, however. The tide was turning, though, whispered every irrationally hopeful Braves fan.
- Justin Upton – He homered in consecutive innings, giving Atlanta its only lead of the night, 4-3 in the third inning.
- Gus Schlosser – Atlanta’s highly touted pitching prospect made an appearance late in the game. He didn’t do extremely well, allowing three hits and one run while striking out none in 1.1 innings. As I write that out, I realize he really didn’t do so poorly, but I had been talking him up all night after reading some stupid scouting report about him earlier in the day.
After Justin’s second home run, which went to deep left and elicited a reaction from Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia that caused Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to miss the homer altogether, Atlanta was unable to muster any more runs, and they lost 6-4. On a personal note, I believe this was the first time I’ve seen the Braves lose at home in my brief Turner-Field-attending days. Fortunately for me and the Braves, that was to be but a minor blip on a winning radar screen.
ALDLAND returned to the Ted on Sunday when Physguy came to town for the third game of the Washington series, the Braves having already claimed the first two games in higher scoring outings. Sunday would be the biggest slugfest of all, though.
The Braves shelled Gio Gonzalez & co. for ten runs, including homers from Justin Upton, Freddy Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons, who was back in the lineup after sitting out a few games for an injury concern. He also had a triple on the afternoon. B.J. Upton also had a better game, notching two hits and scoring a run while making a number of nice running catches in center field. Jason Heyward was more than solid, scoring three times with an RBI double, a walk, and a stolen base. He also made important catches in right, where Washington’s caveman, Jayson Werth, struggled all afternoon. (The Nats were charged with three errors, and they probably could’ve been tagged for a few more.) Catcher Gerald Laird only managed one walk against three strikeouts, but he drove up the Nationals’ pitch counts better than any of his other teammates, and he helped call a defensive game that yielded just two runs to the otherwise potent Washington offense. (Of course, they also lost 11-2 to the Marlins this week, so who knows.) Schlosser had another mediocre relief appearance, though, allowing a ninth-inning leadoff home run to Adam LaRoche for the second and final run of the day for the visitors.
The Nationals were supposed to be among baseball’s best, and they may yet get there. Through Sunday, though, they had five losses, all of them at the hands of the Braves, who, at least momentarily, seem to have overcome their pitching injuries. Just three weeks into the season, the NL East race is shaping up to be an exciting one.
While Washington has achieved mixed results against Miami this week, Atlanta’s winning streak has continued in exciting fashion in Philadelphia, where they followed a big offensive and comeback performance with a magnificent pitchers’ duel last night that saw de facto ace Julio Teheran outplay the great Cliff Lee for a complete-game 1-0 victory.
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