Apr 25, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (24) tags out Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) at home plate in the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves opened the weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds with a bang, gunning down a runner at the plate in the top of the first inning, then scoring 3 runs in the bottom half. I love it when Atlanta jumps out to an early lead, because it gives the already awesome pitching staff even more confidence to throw strikes. The quick lead was thanks to a 3-run homer by Justin Upton after BJ and Freeman got on base. In the 2nd inning, the Braves scored again when Heyward knocked in Simmons. Then in the 3rd inning, Gattis knocked a ball through a hole to left that plated Freeman. Just like that it was 5-0 Braves, and the home town fans were ready to cruise to an easy win.
In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast!” The Reds had other ideas about letting the Braves simply walk away with the first game of the series. The trouble started in the 6th inning when Santana walked the leadoff man. Of course, that’s how most rallies start. I’m a big proponent of throwing the first hitter a meatball over the plate rather than walking him. It just seems to lead to nothing but trouble. The 6th was no exception as Votto walked, Phillips doubled, and Bruce singled to knock in a run. With runners at the corners and no outs, things had gone from easy-breezy to dark and stormy in the blink of an eye. Luckily Santana was able to induce Soto to rap into a double play, which scored another run but emptied the bases. The Braves were able to escape with just the 2 runs of damage.
However, the Reds came right back in the 7th inning and caused more trouble. After a lead-off single and two outs, the Reds scored another run on a double that finally chased Santana from the game. Luis Avilan came on to pitch, but he gave up a single to Votto that scored another run. Carpenter had to come in after that to put out the fire, which he did easily. Still, the Braves large lead had dwindled down to a single run, 5-4. That score would hold up for the Braves heading to the 9th, when Fredi Gonzalez would once again call on Craig Kimbrel to get the save.
Not much seems to come easy for Craig right now. He gave up a leadoff single to Bernandina, who can really run. That started the palpitations in Braves country. Then Craig walked the next batter. That made Braves fans break out in a cold sweat. Kimbrel would battle back to get a strikeout on the next batter, and the batter after that. With two outs, Craig got Votto to roll out to third, but a bad throw almost pulled Freeman off the bag. Freddie Freeman made an incredible stretch with all of his lanky frame to get the out. The umpires reviewed the call, but the out was confirmed and the Braves won a close one 5-4.
Two things really got people excited before this game. One was BJ Upton taking the field with glasses that were a cross between Urkel and Clark Kent. Ricky Vaughn of Major League would have been proud of these things. If you haven’t seen the pictures, take a gander because it looks like BJ is ready to give a Sabermetrics seminar. Which would be horrifically ironic given how he’s hitting. BJ wouldn’t say why he chose to wear the glasses in the pregame warmups, so speculation ran wild. Only in the day-to-day grind of baseball could something as simple as a guy wearing glasses cause this much of a stir.
The other thing that got fans excited was Freddie Freeman talking about some eyedrops he took to clear up his vision problems. It’s like half the team was swinging blind out there for a week. It would also explain why Freddie went 0-12 on the last series. Whatever those eyedrops did, they did it well. Freddie had a 3/4 night with 2 runs scored. He gets my Player of the Game nod for his offense and the game-saving stretch to close out the win.
Braves will play game two against the Reds Saturday night. Tune in as the Braves try to take the series!