Well, the 2009 season is finally underway and the Braves kicked it off by taking the Phillies’ home-opener 4-1. It was a game dominated by an encouraging pitching performance from new Braves Derek Lowe and a somewhat surprising display of power from a team many experts don’t see as a home run club. This week, I thought I’d give y’all my first impressions of this 2009 team. This is one of those special months where we Virginia fans get to see the season opened as well as two series against the Nationals on MASN. Hooray!
So, Derek Lowe. The man dominated. He allowed only two hits on 97 pitches over eight innings. Pretty impressive outing. Lowe did just what the Braves were asking of him when they signed him this offseason: He gave them innings and set the tone for the starting rotation. Naturally, you can’t get ahead of yourself and start patting the Braves on the back already for the slightly questionable deal they gave Lowe this offseason- the man will turn 39 years old in the last year of the contract- but he certainly surpassed my expectations in the opener. The performance puts me a little more at ease about the season, and reliability is something we could all use from the starters.
Power baseball! What was up with the Braves’ bats? Three home runs in two innings from a team no one expects to produce much power this year. It was definitely a nice thing to see, especially the big fly from new center fielder Jordan Schafer in his first major league at-bat.
Speaking of Twitchy Frenchy (seriously, have you seen how many facial ticks that guy has? Keep an eye on him next time they hold the camera on him for any length of time. That dude is twitchy!), how about that new swing?! It’s all Miller and Morgan could talk about, but it apparently paid dividends as he launched the first pitch he saw this season over the left field fence. However, it wasn’t the home run that impressed me some much about Twitch. Rather, it was the surprising level of plate discipline that struck me. He laid off the outside pitch that guys have fooled him with routinely the past couple of years. He even tried to take a walk on an outside strike, and he looked a hell of a lot more relaxed at the plate than he did last year. Maybe there is some hope for this kid yet. Last night, he looked like a ball player, for the first time, in my mind, since he hit the big leagues.
All in all, it was a great game to watch. Lots of excellent pitching, some generally good defense, Mike Gonzalez out there slithering and trying to inject some real drama into the game at the end. (I was holding my breath.) I really want to believe in Gonzo as the dominating closer. I really do. I’m not convinced yet, though. He’s got work to do. But it was great to see baseball again, baseball that matters. Can’t wait for the series with the Nats this weekend!