Ok, I apologize. That’s a cheap, unoriginal, and not at all clever play on Inciarte’s unusual name.
But it really was his game. Ender will go down in history with the first hit, first run scored, and first home run at SunTrust Park. He also caught the first and last outs of the game. He was the main reason the Braves won the home opener (and avoided what would have been a pretty embarrassing defeat after all the hype and ceremony).
Julio pitched pretty well. He wasn’t sharp—he walked four and hit two more batters. But there weren’t many hard hit balls and he limited the damage. He could only go six innings because with all the wildness it took him 100 pitches to go that far. Fortunately for the Braves, the bullpen came through. Ramirez, Vizcaino, and Johnson each pitched a scoreless inning. (Did you realize that since that abysmal collapse in Pittsburgh last Sunday–when they blew a two run lead in the 8th and a one run lead in the 10th—the pen has strung together nine scoreless innings?)
I got a little PTSD flashback to the first two months of last season, when our Braves were historically awful. What does it say about the Padres that two of the players they started were Erick Aybar and Jhoulys Chacin? And wouldn’t you know that Chacin drove in Aybar for the Padres’ first run?
Let’s take this opportunity to survey where we are and what we know about the 2017 Braves team. What conclusions can we draw so far based on nine games? ALMOST NONE. We know the bench is one of the weakest you’ll ever see, but we knew that before opening day. Kemp’s injury has only made it more obvious. Adonis Garcia is not a major league caliber third baseman—but again no surprise. The bullpen may be a strength, but we’ll see.
There are three players in the lineup that we’re counting on for the next good Braves team: Freddie, Ender, and Swanson. So far, Freeman is showing that he may have taken it to the next level; he is one of the best offensive players in baseball. Of course we don’t expect Ender to be a power hitter, but you gotta like everything he does bring to the table. Dansby is off to a weak start, but he should come around. Teheran is a very good starting pitcher. His ERA in three games is under 1.00. He’s not that good, but he’s awfully dependable.
Two notes about the past and the future. As a Braves fan from way back, I always get sentimental when they honor the past greats. It was wonderful to see in the pregame ceremony Niekro, Murph, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, Cox, and especially Henry Aaron. He will always be the greatest Brave, and I got a little chill seeing him walk out and toss the first pitch. Great player and great man.
As to the future, last season for the first time in my life I paid more attention to the minor league box scores than to the big league games. I find I’m doing it again. I know There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, but Coppy has staked this team’s future on a version of that. His bet is that although no one pitcher can be counted on, if you have ten to fifteen great prospects, three or four may turn out to be top of the rotation starters. Just look at the starts already this season by Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, and Touki Toussaint (among several others). Hard not to get excited. I also know they are just as likely to lead to disappointment. Ah, such is baseball.