Feb 27, 2014; Lakeland, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Braves edged out by Astros, 7-5

The Atlanta Braves faced the Houston Astros in their first evening spring training game of the season on Friday. As with most spring training games, the score doesn’t really tell the story, which is a good thing since the Braves lost. Instead, the best way to judge these games is how the players saw the ball, and how the pitchers hit the zone.

Jason Heyward earned himself a walk and a run in his two plate appearances, which is great for his potential status as the lead-off man. La Stella got the start at 2B, and picked up a hit and a walk, but he also left 3 men on base with no RBIs. Freddie Freeman had a great day going 2/2 with a walk and an RBI, which just goes to show you that the big-money man is already in the swing of things. I also liked Dan Uggla’s eye as he earned 2 walks with the bases loaded, and Todd Cunningham’s 2 hits with 2 runs scored.

The pitching was a little less encouraging, but that is to be expected. I think it takes some pitchers a little longer to get things going during training than it does the hitters. Fans were really looking at this game since it would be the first time that Brandon Beachy started a game in Spring Training, and they wanted to get a handle on how he was recovering from his injury. The outing didn’t go very well for Beachy, who went 1.2 innings giving up 5 hits, 2 runs, and a walk. Obviously, he wasn’t really placing his pitches where he wanted, and the Astros hitters made him play. Luckily, this was only a small taste for Beachy, and he has a long time get things back in order. Still, it’s never encouraging to watch a starter struggle.

The good news on the pitching side is that Cory Gearrin and Craig Kimbrel came in for the next 2.1 innings and pitched really well. Combined, they gave up only 1 hit and had 3 strikeouts with no runs in their innings of work. Kimbrel looked sharp throwing just 8 pitches to get his 3 outs in the inning, despite giving up a double. Things then took a turn towards ugly as Jordan Walden and highly-touted prospect JR Graham got lit up for 4 runs on 5 hits in just 1.2 innings. Walden was not hitting the spots well with 7 strikes and 6 balls in his 13 pitches. This early in the process it’s not a big deal for a guy like Walden to be a bit all over the place, but you can benchmark his performances for the next few games and see if there is any improvement.

Obviously, the big takeaway for many here is going to be Beachy, but I think the Braves had solid performances from different spots all over the field. With these early games, it’s about looking more to the positive and less to the negative. Players like Heyward, Freeman, Gearrin, and Kimbrel had a lot of those positives. Let’s hope they continue to build on those positives all through Spring Training.

Tags: Atlanta Braves

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