I journeyed to Houston yesterday to take in the first two games of the Braves and Astros series. It’s my first time at Minute Maid and it quickly became one of my favorite ballparks. I didn’t find a bad sight line where, the food top notch and the price for tickets was nice as well. The staff were wonderful – friendly and welcoming even though I was decked out in my Freeman T-Jersey – and helpful at every turn. If you get the chance to watch a game there you must take it. You’ll find recaps of the game everywhere so this is more about being there on the night..
I got to the park early to watch some batting practice and warm ups. First thing I always do is find out where I’m supposed to be and last night that was row 16, section 112 behind the Braves dugout. I took a series of not very good pictures from there and some video I’ll share another time. It was a great seat with a wonderful view of everything and right in the middle of the Houston Braves fan contingent. The crows was small; official attendance was 18.912 but it sure didn’t look like more than 10,000 were there. But it was a Tuesday night in a town where the team isn’t a contender this year and was relegated to the American League (which cost them fans according to many I talked to on the night, shame on Bud Selig and his extortionist tactics) that’s understandable. They were however loud and involved throughout so kudos to those who attended. There was a huge Braves following all around the ballpark and lots of high fives as they passed each other.
The game is different from the stands than at home of course. When Aaron Harang gave up that monster shot to George Springer none of the Braves fans around me panicked but Twitter was terribly upset that Harang was still on the mound. The Springer home run was hit as hard as any I’ve seen. While Justin Upton’s solo shot later in the game was a classic majestic big fly, Springer’s was a laser to the deepest part of the park that the Astros called 441 feet but ESPN’s home run tracker video shows at 465. I wasn’t the only one impressed with it.
George Springer takes Harang deep over the CF wall. They estimated it at 441 feet. I’d have believed them if they said miles
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) June 25, 2014
Proving pessimistic Twitter fans wrong Harang wasn’t phased by the blast and went on to throw six innings of two run six hit ball. All of the Braves pitchers did well on the night as you can see.
|Aaron Harang W (6-6)||6||6||2||2||2||5||1||25||100||63|
|Anthony Varvaro H (7)||1||1||0||0||1||2||0||5||21||12|
|Jordan Walden H (6)||1||1||0||0||1||2||0||5||22||10|
|Craig Kimbrel S (22)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||4||18||12|
BJ Upton’s homer into the Crawford boxes in the third started the Braves scoring and tied the game. Initially I wasn’t sure it would clear the 315 marker on the wall but it landed three rows back, Justin’s homer smacked off the arches that open to the concourse in left center 413 feet away. That was the deciding run and made the fourth time the brothers has homered as teammates in the same game, a record they share with Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero and Jason and Jeremy Giambi. The Uptons needed only 185 games to tie the record while the Giambis needed 219 (and some PED help for at least one of them) while the Guerreros did it on their own in 345 games. .
Braves pitching held the Astros in check though they did mount challenges in the eight and ninth innings. The ninth inning challenge came when defensive replacement Ramiro Pena muffed a ground ball at second. Why Fredi Gonzalez continues to replace Tommy La Stella for defense is a mystery. Since arriving TLS has shown himself to be a much better defender than his reputation suggests and has done nothing following his first night jitters at Fenway that would warrant replacement. The Skipper is notoriously slow to change his ways but this is a substitution without merit and should be stopped right away.
The error allowed Springer to come to the plate again as the winning run but Kimbrel struck him out swinging to end the game and notch save 22 on the year.
That’s A Wrap
I always wonder what the reception will be when I visit an opponents ballpark for the first time wearing my Braves gear. The whole experience yesterday was fun. Highlights included seeing Minute Maid for the first time, watching a Braves fan interact with Astros mascot Orbit pregame, the Upton’s homers and meeting a fellow member of the Braves Twitter family @BravesAmerica who traveled all the way from Nebraska to watch the series. I’m looking forward to tonight’s game and seeing the return of Alex Wood to the rotation. I’m off to catch a bite at the ballpark restaurant then a tour of Minute Maid. If you’re in attendance Tweet @fredeowens during the game and we can get together and say high.