Remember way back on April 1, when the Braves limped home
from Philadelphia after being swept in a three game series? The season was DOOMED, and given the miserly
owners, the team would never be competitive again.
Here we are, three games later. This team is a juggernaut—the offense is clicking on all cylinders, the rotation is going to be fine, and with all the youth in the field and on the mound (with the greatest kid of all locked up for a decade), this team is a dynasty that will not only win it all this year but probably for the foreseeable future.
Of course both of the above are over-reactions. But I’ve got to tell you, right now I’m feeling like the second is a lot likelier than the first. I’m loving this team (maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement—we’ll discuss the bullpen later). With Thursday’s 9-4 victory over the Cubs, the Braves have pulled back to .500 on the young season. It was a very satisfying series against the Cubs.
But the story of this game, and the main reason I’m feeling so
optimistic right now, is the starting performance by Max Fried. He was perfect through 5 and two thirds, finally
giving up a single with two outs in the 6th. Chip at one point referred to a “command
performance” by Fried. Command is the
word. Leo always insisted that fastball
command is the key to effective pitching; with it, you don’t need much else,
and without it, it doesn’t much matter what other pitches you throw. You may remember that young Max has one of
the best curves in the game. But his
success tonight was all about the heater.
He was throwing it in the 96 to 97 mph range, but most importantly, he
was painting the corners with it, and moving it up and down in the zone. He
also snapped off several beautiful hooks, and threw an 85 mph change up on the
corner whenever he wanted to. It’s true he didn’t give up any hits through 5
2/3, but I’m even more impressed with the lack of bases on balls. Shane Carle was given the ball next. Given how the pen had performed so far, I was
more nervous than I should have been in a 6-0 game. Fortunately, Carle added two shutout innings to
It was actually a very tight game until the bottom of the fifth, when Markakis broke it open with a bases clearing three run double. Speaking of Neck, maybe AA knew what he was doing, keeping him rather than acquiring Brantley, Pollock, or McCutcheon. Markakis had a phenomenal night. 5 for 5, 5 rbi’s, 3 runs scored, 3 doubles, and 8 total bases. The team had 13 hits in total; Ender, Ozzie, and Dansby had two hits each. BMac drove in the first Braves run in the 4th with a single over the head of the right fielder. Brian was always slow, but it’s kind of absurd how slow he is now. But it appears he can still hit. He drove in a run with a sac fly in the 7th–missed going yard by a couple of feet. That gave the Braves 7 on the evening. (I guess Brian didn’t get the memo. I thought the plan was to honor of Bobby Cox by scoring exactly 6 runs in every game the rest of the season.) Another Markakis double in the eighth pushed the Braves total to 9 for the night. It turned out those last three runs were needed, as Chad Sobotka pitched the ninth with a chance to give the Braves staff two shutouts in the three games against the Cubs. Instead, Chad promptly gave up 2 homers and 3 runs. After another hit, Snitker turned to the just activated AJ Minter. He showed signs of rust, walking a couple of guys and allowing another run. All of a sudden I had a PTSD flashback to that game in Wrigley almost exactly a year ago, when the Braves blew a 10-2 lead. Fortunately, Minter recovered and finally ended it.
Ok, the bullpen is still a big question mark, but everything
else is looking pretty great. Oh, and Folty is getting close; he threw 5 no hit
innings in the Gwinnett season opener.
We need some starters who can go deeper into games, or else an entirely
Marlins in for the weekend.
We need to take care of business and sweep these guys. Gausman makes his season debut on Friday.