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