The Atlanta Braves won their ninth opening day since 2000 on Monday night against the Phillies. Getting started in the first inning, the Braves took a 2-0 lead from a blast off the bat of Freddie Freeman scoring Jason Heyward who walked previously. Then Dan Uggla took Cole Hamels deep in the second inning on a shot to left field. Justin Upton followed that in the fifth inning hitting his first home run in a Braves uniform. The bats came to the show on opening night with three home runs and 10 hits as I was impressed on what I saw but that isn’t what impressed me the most from last nights game.
In the top of the fifth inning, Braves starter Tim Hudson ran into a little trouble. After getting the lead off batter Erik Kratz to ground out, Hudson gave up a single to Hamels, then a walk to Ben Revere and a single to Jimmy Rollins loading the bases. After hitting a home run in the previous inning, Chase Utley walked to the plate again now with all ducks on the pond. Hudson showed him his fastball on pitch one getting a called strike and came back with the cutter the next two, both balls. Then the pitch Utley hit out of the park the sinker, Hudson threw it again to much over the plate. Utley hit a line drive double to right field scoring two batters and moving Rollins to third.
What came next was what I thought could have made a huge difference in the final decision of the game….
Fredi Gonzalez made the decision to take Hudson out of the game in favor of left handed relief pitcher Luis Avilan. The next batter due up was Ryan Howard. Avilan threw nothing but two-seam fastballs getting Howard to strikeout swinging on an inside pitch. Gonzalez made another tough decision to intentionally walk the next batter Michael Young loading the bases. Domonic Brown then looked to put the Phillies ahead as at the time the score was 4-3 Braves. Avilan threw a first pitch curveball trying to get Brown to chase but didn’t work. Then threw a nasty two-seam fastball that Brown thought would be over the plate but jammed him as he hit a soft ground ball to Dan Uggla at second.
Braves escaped the inning only giving up two runs and holding onto the lead. With Jonny Venters starting the season on the DL, Avilan stepped up Monday night in a huge position and excelled.
If this wouldn’t have worked out and Brown got a base hit, I believe all we would read on Tuesday would be the awful decision making from Gonzalez and how they should replace him. But since it worked out, this article will be the only thing I’ve read about this inning. It’s funny how baseball works like this but I’m glad on Monday night it worked in the favor of the Braves!