For having new and refurbished parts everywhere, Atlanta looked like a well-oiled machine.
Yes, it was against the Nationals, but the Nats did have a 10-8 record against the Braves last year.
Derek Lowe’s sinker was in mid-season form on this cold and soggy afternoon, only allowing three hits, all singles and two of them coming in the 1st, and two walks while striking out six and not giving up any runs in his 5 2/3 innings of work to notch the win. His great end to the regular season last year (5-0 1.17 ERA in final 5 starts) obviously carried over to this start.
The bullpen was as good as advertised, only allowing 2 hits in 3 1/3 innings. As expected, Craig Kimbrel was the closer and pitched a perfect ninth to earn the save. Venters, who Kimbrel beat out for the closing job, only needed seven pitches for a perfect eighth to record a hold.
Chipper proved his knee was back to normal by hustling for a 2-out double in the 1st. McCann knocked him home with a single up the middle to score the first run of the year for the Braves.
Heyward tried to keep things as similar to last year as he could by hitting another home run to leadoff the 2nd on his first AB of the year to push the lead to 2-0. It took him 2 pitches this year though, when he only needed one last year (sophomore slump).
The defense, which is by far the biggest question mark to this Atlanta team, even had a solid day. No errors on the scoreboard is always a pleasant for new manager Fredi Gonzalez, who got his first win as the Braves skipper. They even sprinkled in a couple of highlight plays. McCann threw out the speedy Rick Ankiel trying to steal 2nd to end the 4th inning. Alex Gonzalez made a nice backhanded stop to end the 6th and leave two Nationals runners stranded.
The only controversy, if you can call it that, was Heyward batting 6th in the lineup. It cost him an AB this afternoon, which several people grumbled at. But, it’s only game one, and there’s plenty of time for Fredi to tweak things.