With Brian McCann out of the lineup for the first 30 games of the 2013 season, things seemed a bit “off” for Atlanta. After all, McCann is a six-time All-Star who has spent his entire career in an Atlanta uniform, and he is one of the cornerstones of this “era” of Braves baseball.
Then, on Thursday night, McCann smacked a 2-run home run in the 2nd inning that opened the scoring for the Braves, and he led the team with 3 hits. In the 4th game since his initial return, this was the “I’m Back” moment for B-Mac, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
In addition to McCann’s big-time performance, the Braves got an impressive and gutty effort from Julio Teheran. The youngster threw 7 innings of 3-run ball, and after giving up a majestic blast to Buster Posey (on a horrendous hanging breaking ball) that gave the Giants a 3-2 lead in the 3rd inning, he buckled down to throw 4 shutdown innings. It would have been extremely easy for the 22-year-old to buckle under the pressure, but his response was beyond encouraging.
After the Posey home run, the only scoring of the final 6 innings came during a 4-run 5th inning for Atlanta. It was the definition of a “chip away” inning, as each of the 4 runs crossed the plate on different plays, but the highlights were two blinding triples from Jordan Schafer and Justin Upton. This is the type of inning that this offense hasn’t been putting together in the early moments of the season, and it was a shout-out to the “conventional” baseball that most people have referenced as the opposite of Atlanta’s power/strikeout approach.
Fittingly, Craig Kimbrel entered in the 9th inning, and amid a cloud of whispers about his effectiveness, he cruised through a 1-hit 9th for his 11th save of the season. For the doubters of Kimbrel, it was a quieting moment, and with his xFIP at 1.89 on the year, I think it is time that everyone takes a deep breath on the Braves stopper.
In the end, this was a fantastic, series-opening win, and with three more games on the horizon against the defending champs, it is huge to get a win with the team’s 5th-starter on the hill. Stay tuned for Friday night’s highlight match-up (10:15 PM ET) between Tim Hudson and Matt Cain.