After unpredictable start Braves look to rebound
Going to have to guess some of you went to bed on Sunday night wishing you had never wished the Braves could be just like the Yankees and Red Sox. <p>
Three weeks after Ohio University, Norfolk State, South Florida and Lehigh created hysteria in the NCAA Tournament, we enter baseball’s first full week with the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Giants all sitting with 0-3 records.
Meanwhile, the Mets and Orioles remain two of baseball’s undefeated teams.
Welcome to early April Madness.
Imagine the odds Vegas would have put on each of these six teams entering Monday with these records. The winnings would have likely equaled those of a Superfecta ticket that only included horses that went off at 15-to-1 or higher.
Heck, you probably would have gained a decent return by simply betting either the Mets or Orioles would escape Opening Weekend unscathed.
Still while it’s nice to see the excitement created this weekend in Baltimore and Queens, it still seems pretty safe to assume the Mets and Orioles are still bound to finish at or near the bottom of their respective divisions.
Since learning the Braves ended up winning 101 games, the last time they lost their first three games of the season, some of you have said, “You can’t compare this team to the 2003 team.”
Understood. That team proved special as Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield all hit more than 35 homers while Russ Ortiz notched a 21-win season that surprised everybody involved. Memories of that team center around the offense, which was also fueled by Marcus Giles’ 49 doubles and Chipper Jones’ 106 RBIs.
But these developments certainly were not predictable when the team totaled two runs and suffered two shutout losses in its first three games.
OK, enough of all of the comparisons. By now, you’ve heard all you want about how the 1998 Yankees and 2007 Phillies also lost the first three games of their respective seasons. Really the only thing most of you wondering is if the Braves will follow a similar path or the one that they traveled this past weekend in New York.
There were obviously very few encouraging signs from the offense this weekend. Jason Heyward recorded a double and a triple. But at the same time, there are still going to be times when he is going to have trouble catching up to the fastball. Remember, he’s still a work in progress.
Tyler Pastornicky showed some patience in the eighth spot of the lineup during his fifth inning plate appearance on Thursday. After falling behind with an 0-2 count, he worked a walk. At the time, it seemed he had aided the Braves by turning the lineup over.
But things got interesting when Johan Santana then walked Tommy Hanson to load the bases and push his pitch count to a point where he was unable to return for the sixth.
Setting the tone for the remainder of the weekend, the Braves were not able to take advantage. Michael Bourn struck out to kill the fifth inning threat and the Mets bullpen completed seven scoreless innings during the first two games of the series.
The Braves offense will try to get on track tonight against J.A. Happ, who just happens to be 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA in six career starts against the Atlanta. If you are looking for the bright side of this picture, each of these starts was made with the Phillies.
Stay Hot. Or would it be more fitting here to say “Stay Cold.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez does not have Heyward in tonight’s lineup. Instead, he is playing left-handed hitting third baseman Juan Francisco and using Matt Diaz in right field. Diaz has eight hits, including two doubles and a homer, in 15 at-bats against Happ.
Heyward and Francisco have never batted against the left-hander.
Really not sure why Heyward is not in tonight’s lineup. Check braves.com and my Twitter page for updates.
Keep an eye on Brandon Beachy during the early innings as he makes his first start for the Braves tonight. Beachy struggled during the early innings of his final two exhibition starts and then found a groove in both outings.
BRAVES LINEUP (4/9/12)