Along about the middle of the sixth, some among us despaired. After all, how often have the Braves ever come back from 5 runs down on Opening Day? Never, apparently, at least according to Mark Bowman.
It was a pretty good pitcher’s duel through 5. Julio Teheran, making his 5th consecutive opening day start, was no Rick Mahler, but he was pretty good. He only gave up 3 hits and 1 run to that point. The problem was that Aaron Nola looked more like Steve Carlton. The Braves offense through 5 was anemic; hard to say if it was weak at bats or excellent pitching–but Nola really is quite good. So 1-0 Phillies after 5.
Unfortunately, in the top of the 6th Julio remembered he was in SunTrust Park and gave up a solo shot to Cesar Hernandez. Then after two outs Teheran hit a batter and then walked a man. He was at 90 pitches for the night, and since he isn’t Tony Cloninger and the Braves aren’t managed by Bobby Bragan, it was time for Julio to call it a night. With a lefty at the plate, two on and two out, Snitker summoned Rex Brothers from the pen. If you’re going to carry Brothers in your pen, this is what he’s there for. Problem was, Brothers walked J.P. Crawford. Well, no one does their job perfectly every time. Right handed Franco coming up with the bases loaded, with the game still within reach–but the possibility of things blowing up. So of course you bring in a righty–maybe Moylan?
No, Snit left Brothers in to face the right handed hitter in the most critical at bat of the game. I think I know what happened. We all know that Rex Brothers is a Loogy. That means Lefty One Out Guy. Our manager took that literally. Brothers had not gotten an out yet, so his turn wasn’t up. Here’s the solution: Loogy needs to mean Lefty Only One Guy. If he doesn’t get the lefty out, take him out.
Anyway, Brothers walked Franco forcing in a run, and then Winkler gave up a two run single and it’s 5-0.
Fortunately, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler (who else remembers Welcome Back Kotter?) removed Nola, who had only thrown 68 pitches, in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on and one out. MVP candidate Freddie Freeman promptly hit a two run homer to bring the Braves within 3. Then in the 8th, Ozzie Albies, who may himself be an MVP one of these years, homered to center. Braves within 2! After a couple of walks, a passed ball, and a throwing error, it’s now 5-4. Preston Tucker (who will never be an MVP, but I’m glad we have him) drove in the tying run with a single.
After Vizcaino held them in the 9th, Culberson led off the bottom of the inning with an infield single, was sacrificed to second, and remained there after Ozzie flied out. Kapler had learned his lesson earlier and chose to walk Freeman and pitch to Markakis. The right call, of course, but Cakes of all people hit the walk off three run homer. What a game! And what a great way to start the season!
So what did we learn about the Braves’ upcoming season? Nothing, of course, except that we are 1-0. More importantly, we are now one game ahead of the pace set by the 1991 worst to first team. Let’s keep that up.
Folty takes the hill tomorrow. My unsolicited advice is not to spot them five runs. But if we do, we won’t give up, will we?