It's great to be back in Atlanta!
While the Braves wrapped up their opening road trip with a 2-4 record, everyone on the traveling party is happy to be home. Yes, the first road trip was only a week long but for the players, coaches, manager, clubhouse guys, PR and front office staff, this is the first meaningful time spent at home since the early days of February! It's a brief homestand with the Brewers and Mets coming to town, but a week to get settled in and set up for the 2012 season is great news for everybody.
Now, early observations from the road trip:
1. Chipper knows how to make an entrance, doesn't he? Rehab? I don't need no stinkin' rehab! My partner, Joe Simpson, noted that when Chipper comes off the DL he's usually ready to go. In 12 "first games" back from the DL in the same season, Chipper has hit a whopping .488 with 6 HRs, and 15 RBIs. Hitting 6th for just the ninth time in his career, he blasted his 455th career home run and the Braves picked up their first win. Wednesday night, in his last at bat in Houston, he singled. The same result as his first at bat in Houston as a Major Leaguer on May 26, 1995. Guess he knows how to make an exit too.
2. Mid-to-long relief very important so far. No Braves starter worked more than five innings on the trip. Deep counts, high walk numbers, and high strikeout totals forced Fredi Gonzalez to use Livan Hernandez, Christhian Martinez, and Kris Medlen frequently.
Additionally, the Braves staff has had trouble closing out innings. Of the 27 runs allowed, 15 have come with 2 outs.
Obviously, the Braves hope Jurrjens, Minor, and Beachy (starting trio for the Brewers series) can get deeper into the game.
3. Guys are rolling with their roles. Tyler Pastornicky had an amazing week of firsts: Hit, run, home run, and an error. David Ross debuted with great work behind the plate and a huge 2-run scoring hit Wednesday. Jack Wilson is still fun to watch at SS, and the Braves' "Big 3" of Venters, O'Flaherty, and Kimbrel helped protect and save the first two wins of the season.
No, a 2-4 trip isn't what the Braves expected. In fact, Fredi Gonzalez said accurately that at times it wasn't real pretty to watch.
But the club returns home with a little bit of momentum, eager and ready for a standing room crowd Friday night.
Speaking of home openers, Friday's will be the 47th in Atlanta Braves franchise history. On April 12, 1966, the Braves hosted the Pirates at Fulton County Stadium. Pittsburgh prevailed in 13 innings by a 3-2 score. Tony Cloninger started AND finished for the Braves, pitching all 13 innings with 12 strikeouts. Gene Alley of the Pirates recorded the first hit in Atlanta. Rico Carty had the first Atlanta Braves hit. Joe Torre, yes THAT Joe Torre, hit the first homer. Best of all, 50,671 were on hand for history.
Hope you'll be part of the standing room crowd at the Ted Friday night. If you can't be there in person, join us on PeachtreeTV in Atlanta, and FSS throughout Braves Country. First pitch is 7:35. And we'll see you then.
BTW, send your questions or comments my way. Hope you'll click the "Ask Chip" tab, send in your question for me, Joe, Fredi, or the players. I hope to have a weekly mailbag segment starting early next week.