This year’s Braves team is obviously better than last year’s. In 2021 our guys didn’t reach the .500 mark until game 111. With tonight’s 7-6 victory over the Redlegs, it only took until the second game to get there.
Charlie Morton took the hill and showed no ill effects from his broken leg nor from his advanced age. Really, he’s 38 and looks as good as he’s ever been. Charlie retired the first 12 batters he faced. He left after 5 and a third, having surrendered 2 runs on 2 hits and a walk.
Braves hitters jumped all over Reiver Sanmartin, the young Reds hurler making his third big league appearance. They showed admirable patience, drawing 5 walks and getting to him for 4 hits. After 3 innings it was 7-0. It was classic hibernation mode thereafter against several relievers I’ve never heard of–the Braves never scored again. That would come back to haunt in the 9th.
The night shift guys from last October were sharp. Minter allowed a couple of runs (one charged to Charlie, another of his own) on a groundball hit the sixth, making it 7-3. Smith and Matzek, though, got them six up six down in the 7th and 8th.
In the 9th, Kenly Jansen made his Braves debut. He allowed the first two to reach, but retired the next 2. He then allowed a weak two strike groundball hit to make it 7-4 game with the tying run at the plate. A soft line drive hit (again with 2 strikes) drove in two more to make it 7-6. All of a sudden this April was eerily reminding me of last April. But Jansen induced a fly ball to center by India to end the game and earn his first “Braves Save” (see the glossary). In Jansen’s defense, none of the three hits he surrendered were hit hard. Still, we’ll look for better results from him going forward.
On offense, D’Arnaud did the most damage, with 3 rbi’s on a couple of hits. Matt Olson had his first three hits as a Brave, and drove another one to the wall in deep center.
Of course it’s too early to tell anything from on the field results, but I really do believe this year’s edition will be superior to last year’s. I’m not predicting another World Series championship–October is a crapshoot, as we know. But this is a very deep lineup, especially once Ronald returns, the rotation featuring Fried, Morton, Anderson, and several kids with promise is solid, and the bullpen looks like the best in baseball. It’s still a young team, and the best players will be Braves for several years to come. It’s a good time to be a Braves fan.
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On this date 48 years ago, Henry Louis Aaron hit the most momentous home run in Atlanta Braves history. I’d like to say that I was among the 53,755 fans in the stands that night. Pretty much everyone I know who is around my age claims to have been there—and who am I to question that? It was the largest crowd to see the Braves in Atlanta up to that point.
I could claim I was there, but y’all are a perceptive community who expect the truth from people who post here. (That is a rare thing on the internet, but it’s why this blog is one of the few places I hang out in cyberspace.) Truth is, I was not in attendance at Atlanta Stadium that night. I did watch the game live, on a little black and white TV in my freshman dorm room. That in itself was pretty rare, because in that pre-TBS, pre-cable, pre-ESPN world, most games were not televised. But this one was on network TV on a Monday night, just in case Aaron did happen to hit the record breaker. Of course he obliged, on the first swing he took in the game. There is really nothing I can add to the reams already written about that night and Mr. Aaron’s feat.
I wasn’t there on April 8, but I did attend several other games that year. I was there on September 3, along with 1,561 other paid customers. (I don’t recall anyone claiming to have been part of that throng.) The Braves won that night behind a strong start by Buzz Capra. Buzz only gave up one run (a solo shot by Stretch McCovey—no shame in that). It was his 13th win, and he lowered his season ERA to 2.45. Capra finished the season with 16 wins and led the league with a 2.28 ERA. Phil Niekro won 20 games and his ERA of 2.38 was second in the league. The 1974 season is remembered, and rightly so, for that cold April 8 night. But their 88-74 finish was actually the second best Braves record between 1969 and 1991—and only one game worse than the 89 win 1982 squad.
So why were they playing in front of “crowds” of 1500 when they were playing so well? Partly because they were never in the pennant race that year; despite an excellent September, they finished 14 games behind the 102 game winning Dodges and 10 behind the 98-win Reds.
But because of the strong finish in 74, I was really pumped going into the 1975 season. The team had excellent pitching in 1974, and just the year before that they had the best offense in the league. I was sure they could combine the best of those two seasons and challenge the Dodgers and Reds. Three weeks into the season they were just a half game out. As it turned out they won 67 games and finished 40 games behind the Big Red Machine.
That 1975 season was typical of the teams in that decade. The ballpark was a lonely place in the 1970’s, especially in September. Attendance under 5000 was a lot more common than sell out crowds. There were many times I was one of fewer than 1000 in attendance.
My point—and I do have one in this lengthy excursus, albeit not a profound one—is that we should not take the current run of success (WS champs, four straight division titles) for granted. Having a competitive team to root for beats the hell out of rooting for a perennial loser.
I’ll say it again. It’s a good time to be a Braves fan.
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On Saturday, the Braves go for a winning record behind Kyle Wright. Last year, when they first went over the .500 mark, they kept on winning and never looked back. I recommend they do that again.