Braves prepping for Citi Field introduction
New ballpark. Same old rivalry.
Say what you want about the cats and rats that existed at old dingy Shea Stadium. But you can’t deny the fact that there was almost always a great sense of excitement whenever the Braves traveled to play there over the course of the past decade.
Whether it was a creation of John Rocker’s pot stirring or just a sense of jealousy that developed during Atlanta’s run of consecutive division titles, there’s no doubt that Mets fans have grown to love to hate the Braves.
The most obvious love-hate relationship is shared by Chipper Jones and those Mets fans who have always showered him with chants of “Lah-REE”. You can bet that those same mocking references to his given name will be heard at Citi Field.
But for now, we can only hope that the modernized stadium in Queens creates the same type of hostile atmosphere that was present in Shea. There’s just something great about those moments when fans truly raise the game’s energy level.
Since the Braves moved into their modernized digs at Turner Field, there have been numerous moments when the fans have caused goose-bump-type atmospheres. But as many of you will attest, those moments occurred much more frequently during the early 1990s at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Much of that had to do with the sudden sucees enjoyed by a previously pitiful Braves organization. But there’s also reason to wonder if the new stadium’s environment set the tone for a more tranquil atmostphere.
Whatever the case, Jones is hoping that Citi Field presents the same blue collar atmosphere as its predecessor.
It would be nice to see Jones’ sore right elbow prove to be healthy enough for him to be in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the first-place Mets. We’ve got a nationally-televised game featuring a pair of aces (Derek Lowe and Johan Santana) who will both be attempting to prolong their respective team’s current success.
Jones’ participation would only add to the intrigue.
The primary reason the Braves have won four of their past five games stems from the fact that they’ve once again become whole with the returns of Brian McCann and Garret Anderson. Taking Jones out of the lineup would produce the same negative effect that manager Bobby Cox encountered far too often during the season’s first month.
Still there’s no indication that Jones is battling anything serious and so if you’re looking at the big picture, it won’t be a big deal if he needs just one more day to rest the elbow that he hyper-extended with two seperate swings on Sunday.
Winners of seven straight games, the Mets have every reason to feel good about the fact that Santana is taking the hill tonight. Still while asserting himself as the game’s top pitcher, the veteran left-hander is still winless in five career starts against the Braves.
During the four starts he’s made against the Braves since the start of the 2007 season, Santana is 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA. He has worked seven innings during each of those outings and allowed as many as three runs just once.
His most recent start against the Braves occurred on Sept. 13, when he tossed seven scoreless innings and then exited after allowing consecutive singles to begin the eighth. Two batters later, Jeff Francoeur tied the game with one of the six hits he recored last year in 33 at-bats with the bases loaded.
The numbers tell a lot about the game. But they don’t create the stories that develop.