With eighty games in the books, the 2012 season is just about halfway through. For Atlanta, the first half has been all peaks and valleys, winning streaks and head-scratcher skids. No player epitomizes that more than Chipper. He missed the beginning of the season recovering from a knee injury, but when he returned, he quickly showed that he could still play at 40 years old, hitting a home run in his first game. Then that freak injury he received in Tampa kept him sidelined for about a month. Now, of course, he’s back in the lineup, headed to the All-Star game in Kansas City, and just had his best performance of the season, a five-hit, four-RBI game (not to mention the stolen base and web gem at third).
Knowing Chipper won’t be with the team next year makes every time he steps on the field that much more special. Honestly, I can’t remember the Braves pre-Chipper (I was six years old in ’95), and I imagine it’s going to be very strange to not see his goofy smile in the dugout. Watching Chipper take the field and say goodbye to so many teams and ballparks has been my favorite part of the first half of the season, but there’s been a lot more to enjoy, as well. Here are a few of the most memorable moments of the first eighty games.
Brandon Beachy’s complete game shutout. The bigger story for Beachy, obviously, is losing him to Tommy John surgery. But remember how spectacular his first five games were? He pitched like a seasoned veteran with a young stud’s arm, and that complete game shutout against Miami was the best performance of his career thus far. We won’t get to see him in action for a long time, but it’s not like his career is over. Some pitchers return from Tommy John with even better stuff. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Eric Hinske’s explosion and ejection. I hate when the home plate umpire makes the decision on a check swing rather than asking for assistance, and apparently Hinske does too. In the top of the eighth against the Cardinals, score tied at six, Hinske struck out on a check swing and just about lost his mind. We ended up winning the game in the 12th inning thanks to a J-Hey homer, but the ejection is what I remember most. Hinske’s had a pretty forgettable season, but he’s still a source of excitement at the dish.
Heyward steals a win on the base path. Remember when Bryce Harper took second on a ground ball to right field because Heyward didn’t field it aggressively. J-Hey took a lot of flak for that, but since then he’s responded by improving his performance all around and hustling at all times. In an extra-inning game against the Blue Jays, Jason beat out the throw for an infield single, then stole second, stole third, and took home and won the game in walk-off fashion on a throwing error.
Andrelton Simmons. Need I say more? Okay, I will. He’s hitting .323/.364/.495, with 12 runs and 14 RBIs in 28 games, and his offense isn’t even the most important aspect of his game. He’s got a .979 fielding percentage and massive range at shortstop. I can’t believe we played two months of the season without him.
The fifteen-inning classic against Philly. In my mind, that game stands out above the rest as the best of the first half. There were too many highlights to mention. The contest went back and forth all night, but finally ended when (who else?) Chipper Jones hit a walk-off homerun in the fifteenth inning. Afterwards, Chipper called it “the most psychotic game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Share your favorite or most memorable moments from the first half in the comments section, and have a great Fourth of July.