Will today be better than Opening Day?

Our friend Buster Olney concludes all of his blog entries with the phrase, “and today will be better than yesterday.” 

As I was driving to the stadium this afternoon through that green mist that is only satisfying to the manufacturers of Claritin, I was thinking it will be pretty difficult for Braves fans to exit Turner Field tonight with the same kind of excitement that was created on Opening Day. 

But with Mr. Heyward in the house you can bet it won’t be long before we see something special again. 

When Heyward drilled his three-run homer with the first swing of his Major League career on Monday, I was among the many who immediately felt chills going down my spine.  My immediate reaction was that Turner Field hadn’t been filled with that kind of energy since Brian McCann took Roger Clemens deep with his first career postseason at-bat in Game 2 of the 2005 Division Series. 

Still if I’m ranking the single greatest moments that I’ve witnessed since I assumed this beat in 2001, Heyward’s homer has to trump McCann’s.   Jeff Francoeur’s homer in his Major League debut was pretty special.  But the energy wasn’t quite the same because he wasn’t playing in front of a packed house. 

When we reminisce about Monday afternoon, we’ll always remember Heyward’s blast.  But long before he sent Carlos Zambrano’s 2-0 fastball into the Braves bullpen, you could definitely feel a sense of excitement that hasn’t been present in these parts the past few years.

Maybe it was because this was the first Opening Day home game since 2004.  Or maybe Heyward has already created the same kind of effect that Michael Vick had during the early part of this century when he seemingly single-handedly made the Georgia Dome the place to be on Sundays in the fall. 

Or maybe, the fans have simply taken notice of the fact that this seems to be the best team the Braves have assembled since at least the 2003 season.  And if I’m comparing the two teams, I’d have to say there’s no doubt that this team’s pitching staff is better than that one that benefited from the regular power that Javy Lopez, Vinny Castilla, Gary Sheffield and Co. supplied on ’03. 

With the momentum created by their Opening Day victory, the Braves will now send their top three pitchers to the mound over the next three days.  Jair Jurrjens gets the call tonight and will be opposed by Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster. 

Yesterday, when I was compiling a story about Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, who will start Thursday night’s series finale against the Cubs, I found it interesting that Jurrjens and Tom Glavine had compiled a nearly identical workload through each of the seasons completed before they turned 24 years old. 

Glavine  23-29   72 starts  431.2 IP  4.29 ERA
Jurrjens  30-21  72 starts  434 IP  3.21 ERA

Jurrjens’ better record is a product of the fact that he has started his career with the benefit of being on teams much stronger than the ones that Glavine was a part of during his early years.  But this still seems to be yet another comparison that proves that the young right-hander from Curacao could be headed toward a very bright future.

TONIGHT’S LINEUP vs. Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster

Melky Cabrera 7
Martin Prado 4
Chipper Jones 5
Brian McCann 2
Troy Glaus 3
Yunel Escobar 6
Jason Heyward 9
Nate McLouth 8
Jurrjens 1 

38 Comments

Wow this lineup should cause alot of problems for opposing right handed pitchers all year long. Although it is a shame that Matty D will be limited when rhp are facing us this year. Hope to see him in the lineup soon he is a gamer and gritty. Also like Hinske coming off the bench and I agree Mark if this team can put up over 800 runs this year like they did in 2003 I don’t think will have the likes of Mark Prior or Kerry Wood to stop us.

Heyward is a beast. Not that we didn’t know it already.

And the Prado-Escobar-Glaus play showed that all three can play. Crappy throw on Escobar’s part, but other than that… Glaus scooped it, Prado got the ball and the throw, and Escobar barehanded it perfectly… great DP. Hopefully Glaus keeps it up – I was worried he’d come off the bag.

If this game ends 2-1, Glaus’ glove (and bat) would have already cost us one game.

Shaunson this year is still young, Hopefully Glaus will win us three times as many as he loses

Did the radar gun just say 98 mph for Wagner? WTF?

(I know he was a fireballer back in the day, but I thought he was throwing 94 max?)

It wasn’t exactly pretty but a W is a W. Good to see Chipper hammering from the right side and REALLY good to see Wagner throwing some gas to get his first save in a Braves uniform.

The chipper and wagner show amazing save by wagner.

Either Wagner was holding back during ST or Tommy John has become very good to him.

Also, can I just say that I love having John Smoltz in the booth? The only thing better than having him in the broadcast booth would be having him in the dugout relaying some of his knowledge to our young pitchers.

The only thing better than having Joe and Smoltzie in the broadcast booth would be if EJ wasnt in there with them.

This was a perfect game to demonstrate the fickle nature of baseball.
Jurrjens comes out throwing lasers, loses his release point and control but then comes back to keep it close.
Prado comes out and flashes major leather, then dumps a putout on the steal attempt and another botch, then doubles to start the comeback rally.
Glaus has a horrific day at the plate and at first then makes a stellar play to keep us in it.
Chipper is in the throes of a less than stellar start to the season and then he pulls that little bit of magic out of his hat.
Overall I would say this game was more important to the team than opening day. When everyone is crushing it, it is easy to win. When things aren’t going your way, it is so much harder. Tonite was one of those latter games, Dempster was really good, we scratched and clawed through the weak points and came away with a win. This kind of win is what championship teams have to conjure. When you don’t have your best stuff and you win anyway. Way to go boys.

Oh, and just one more thing. I guess Billy Wagner is feeling ok, huh? That was sick.

I heard that Billy Wagner tops out at around 95-96 now, but I SWEAR I saw the gun hit 100mph during spring training. And definitely saw it hit around 98. I never mentioned it and kinda chalked it up to crappy radar guns used during ST.

Great win last night! Especially since we were playing against two opponents. The Cubbies AND Troy Glaus. I was hoping against hope that Chipper would drive in Prado because I knew they would intentionally walk Mac to get to Troy for his 5th strikeout of the night. I’m concerned about his defense too. He really showed that he is vulnerable at first base. Hope he turns it around… he looked absolutely lost at the plate.
Jair pitched a fabulous game… but we just cannot get him any run support….EVER!
It would be hard to take the most positive sign from these first two games, as there are so many, but if I had to choose just one it would be the bullpen!!! Don’t look now, but our bullpen hasn’t given up a run yet! Kudos to Moylan / Medlen / and Wagner last night on an outstanding job!

Proud of the win. Way too many strike outs. Who let TP near Glaus? The guy raked all spring training, but now he looks completely lost. The greenest little league coach will tell you that you can’t hit the ball if you don’t see it. His head was pulled out on every swing.

Not trying to be negative of the win, but all I kept hearing from spring training was how patient the Braves hitters were being. There was absolutely no patience last night. Hopefully, they were just a little jacked still from Monday night and they’ll come out tonight with clearer heads and give Tommy H some support to send the Cubs out of here 0-3.

Could use a series sweep of the cubs cause this west coast road trip will not be easy with a good giants team coming up. There is a statistic that when NBA teams travel across country that they win less than 40% of the time.

Just a few comments:
Billreef: I agree with your assessment totally, its much more uplifting to scratch out a win than win a game when the bat boy could have gotten a hit. Also, this is the most comfortable I have felt with a Braves closer since Mark Wohlers in his prime (given that Wagner stays healthy). Has anyone given the consideration that we have a left handed power closer and the Phillies top two bats are left handed (sounds like a good matchup to me).

Bravo: of course Troy looks lost, he went an entire season without facing major league pitching. He will come around. He is just going to need a little bit of time. Honestly, its a little too early to be concerned about Glaus. And you are correct, the bullpen has been dominant so far…… and once again no run support for Jurrjens. Makes you wonder if he needs to visit some sort of witch doctor of the baseball gods to get more than 1-2 runs of support per start (he should have had 18+ wins last year).

Katjam: Glaus didn’t “rake” during spring training. He hit a lot of singles off of guys who are sharing hotel rooms and traveling on buses. He is definately not in sync as of yet, but when he does (which I believe that he will, let’s give him more than 2 games) we should have a very stout offense.

Tommy Hanson, number 3 starter. . . . wow, what a luxury. This guy would be a young ace for most teams.

Speedybream… Whatever…. He hit .385 for the spring and that wasn’t all just against people trying to make the double A squad. I don’t care who he was facing, he couldn’t have hit anything the way he looked last night. If you are not concerned with the way he looked at the plate last night, then I don’t know what to tell you. Glaus looked terrible. I never said he was a loss, but it is a concern.

And how much of that .385 was anything more than a single? I am not saying that he is doing great, but you can’t let your judgement be swayed by the fact that he hit a bunch of singles during spring trainging, that’s not “raking” the ball. Heyward and McCann are raking the ball. And you are right, Glaus did look bad the past two games. But you can’t judge a guy off of 2 games. Anyone that has watched baseball over the years has seen plenty of times where a guy has looked horrible for a week or two then got back on the right track and had a great season. There were plenty of occassions where former Braves (Lopez, Furcal, A. Jones, others) looked atrocious and turned it around. A baseball season is 162 games, you can’t worry after 2. Baseball is too hard of a sport to worry about 2 games, its also very fickle as billreef mentioned. Glaus hasn’t seen a MLB caliber pitcher for a year, he’s going to need time to get his stroke back.

It has only been 2 games. Chill out.

One thing that I was incorrect about was the fact i didn’t include John Smoltz in the comment about reliable closers, he is obviously the most dominating closer we have had in recent memory. Guess I will always consider him a starter.

Viva-you’re right about the pitch speed in ST. We saw Wags clocked at 97-98 mph too.
Is anyone else frustrated about Diaz still not getting his due? Not that I dislike Melky, but Matty has proven himself repeatedly.

bhambravo – I’ve been in the Diaz camp for 2.5 years now. All he does is hit over .300. His knock is that he can’t hit righties… and that’s just bs! He’s a professional hitter. Plane and simple. we’re a better team with Matty Diaz in the lineup.
And speedybream – I’m all for Glaus finding his swing. But does he have to look for it while batting 5th or cleanup? I did not see a guy comfortable at all at the plate. Hope he figures it out sometime soon.
And what’s with Yunel swinging at 3 straight sliders down and away with the bases loaded ala Jeff Franceour??? I really hope that’s not a sign of things to come. He’s usually lights out with RISP.

How is this killing McCann’s production?? He is hitting .400 with 1 HR and 4 BB in 2 games. I don’t think Albert Puhols hitting behind McCann would get him better pitches the way he has been hitting through spring up until now. Some of you guys are crazy sometimes. CHILL OUT IT HAS BEEN 2 GAMES FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
Oh, and Mark.. are you bummed that they took down a direct link to the blog from the Braves homepage? You have to go into “MORE HEADLINES” to find the link. The new layout they have is horrible and doesn’t even work half the time.

I also have to express concern about Glaus, 2 games into the season or not. Look at the impact it is already having on McCann. He can’t get any good pitches to hit and will not until something happens with Glaus. At least move him down and bring Heyward up. That needs to be immediate. If that doesn’t work we can go to Hinske but Glaus is killing McCann’s production already.

I don’t care how many HR’s Kelly Johnson hits… Prado is a cornerstone of this team. Not that we don’t know it. I’m just being a fan.

Glaus with his third attempt with bases loaded, less than two outs. PLEASE do not hit a DP..

And of course. Good thing I’m not superstitious..

Will Troy Glaus please get an RBI and not ground into DP.

Well, the first Chipper injury of the season, let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend. . .

No one ever talks about Escobar hitting into a lot of double plays, but… Escobar hits into a LOT of double plays.

Glaus not taking 2nd really hurt that inning. Even when he gets a hit he still screws up.

Tonight, Bobby Cox and Frank Wren look like geniuses for bringing Chavez to Atlanta instead of sending him up US 29.

Viva, they still have a link to the blog. It’s at the bottom left of the page…under “Blogging the Braves”

I find it amusing when fans give players a break because it’s only the first week of the season, or only the first 2-3 games. Every year the wild card is decided by a game or two. These games are important and not time for players to be “finding a rhythm” or “finding their swing”. The east will be a tight race and so will the wild card. These games in early April are every bit as important as the ones in late September. These guys have been preparing for months and should be ready. They are going to continue pitching around Mac with Glaus hitting behind him. ESPECIALLY if Chipper continues to miss some time.
Although our lineup is improved from last year, it is still not where it should be if we want to win the east. I’m afraid the first game of the season was an anomaly and we are going to keep seeing games like the last two. Our pitchers are going to continue to hold the opposition to 2-3 runs and we are going to struggle to score 3-4 runs.

Uh.. I’m not giving him a “break”, I just think it’s a little too early to start throwing tomatoes at certain players that aren’t performing. And maybe because this is baseball and that’s just how it works. Certain guys need to find a rhythm and start off cold. Some guys start off hot and then cool off. Mark Teixiera doesn’t have a hit yet. Do you think the Yankees are worried? Are they gonna bench him? Glaus stunk it up last night, but he does have 3 hits already. Maybe he will be a bust. So what. Put Hinske in there. What if he sucks? Get creative. We’re 2-1 and have already had 2 exciting games. Take the barb wire out of your *** and enjoy it!!

Not really comparing Glaus to Teixiera, but he did average over 30 HRs 90 RBIs a season and is only 33.

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