Early offense, phenomenal defense, solid starting pitching, and nasty bullpen work did the job for Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves, and it gave our new skipper a sterling 1-0 record as the new Braves manager.
The Braves defeated the Nationals in cold and windy Washington D.C. behind a gutty effort from Derek Lowe. Lowe pitched 5 and 2/3s innings and allowed just three hits and two walks. Armed his overhauled approach on the mound that was so successful in September and October of last season, he struck out six Nationals hitters and didn't allow any runners to score. Two of the three hits he allowed came in the first inning to Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, but Lowe promptly forced Adam LaRoche to pop out and Michael Morse to roll over on a sinker to end the inning.
Atlanta got on the scoreboard with a little two out magic in the first inning. Chipper Jones roped a double down the right field line and Brian McCann followed with a ground ball right up the middle. Not only did it give the team a lead, but Chipper looked great as he rounded the bases.
Jason Heyward led off the second inning and hit a home run in his first Opening Day at-bat for the second year in a row. Livan Hernandez left a slider up in the zone and Heyward rocketed the ball into the first row of seats in right field. It gave the Braves a 2-0 lead that they wouldn't squander.
Derek Lowe continued to be solid on the mound and worked into the sixth inning. He issued a two out walk to Ryan Zimmerman and he was pulled after 104 pitches. A very impressive outing for Derek.
After bringing in Eric O'Flaherty, we all saw an immediate difference between Fredi Gonzalez and Bobby Cox. O'Flaherty, who's assignment was to get out the left-handed Adam LaRoche, gave up a single and allowed Zimmerman to move up to third base. If Bobby Cox is managing this game, he likely brings in Peter Moylan to face the right-handed Michael Morse. Instead, Gonzalez stuck with O'Flaherty and he got Morse to ground out sharply to Alex Gonzalez.
After throwing 11 pitches in the sixth inning, Gonzalez stuck with O'Flaherty once again in the 7th. He got the first batter to strike out, but then allowed a double to the switch-hitting Danny Espinosa. With Ivan Rodriguez, a right-handed batter, coming to the plate, Fredi held off on Peter Moylan once again. Rodriguez grounded out to first, and there were two outs with the top of the Nationals lineup coming up. The manager then pulled O'Flaherty and brought in Moylan, who quickly struck out Laynce Nix to end the inning.
It's certainly different than what we're used to, but it was effective.
For all of the uncertainty in the sixth and seventh innings, the eighth and ninth innings were about as easy as they come. Jonny Venters got Desmond, Werth, and Zimmerman all to ground out weakly, and he only needed seven pitches to do so. Craig Kimbrel then came in the ninth and recorded his first save of the season, striking out two Nationals in the process.
Pretty sweet game to start the season with.
He didn't record a hit, but Freddie Freeman also needs to be mentioned. He had two incredible picks at first base, and saved Alex Gonzalez at least one throwing error with his great glove work. The kid can play some defense.
Derek Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty, Peter Moylan, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel.
Not really any LVPs for this game, but only three Braves had a hit today (Jones, McCann, Heyward).