Nobody should be shocked that we won last night against one of the Cubs worst starters. In fact, the only shock should be that we didn't win by more, given all of our base runners. Feldman is terrible for the Cubs, and he's not long for the MLB world. Minor was dazzling, with only a solo homer as a minor(heh) blemish. There was a lot to love about this game, and there was a lot that left you scratching your head. It wasn't just a one-sided affair, even if the scoreboard looked that way at the end with the 4-1 win.
I believe this team thrives off first inning action. It didn't look like we were going to see any of that action in this game until Justin Upton took an inside fast ball at the knees, and drilled it over left center on a rope. Seriously, the ball looked like a long line drive that barely cleared the fences. For a second, nobody was quite sure it was going to get out, and then it was gone. 1-0 Braves, and the fans could sense it was going to be a good night. Justin also got another chance in the 3rd inning when we had Simmons on 3rd and one out. J-Up's sac-fly plated our second run before the Cubs could figure out Minor.
Speaking of Minor, I doubt he's pitched much better than last night, and that's a great sign. He's obviously taken the momentum from last season and this spring, and he's changed his attitude towards pitching. Before, Minor was always in trouble with one big inning snowballing on him. In the 5th, he gave up a solo shot to Scott Hairston to make the game 2-1 Braves, and then immediately gave up a base hit to Castillo with no outs. At that point, the old Mike Minor would have melted down, given up 4 runs, and have to be pulled out of the game. The new Mike Minor completely forgot about the last two pitches, and threw a strike to Lillibridge that he rolled over into a twin killing. It's exactly the kind of growth you want to see out of a young starter. He looked completely unintimidated out there, and his control was amazing. So amazing, that he didn't walk a single batter and struck out 7 in 7 innings. I love to see that.
It's not all sunshine and roses despite the win, although the weather was a lot better than Thursday's meteorological disaster. I will continue to harp on the fact that this team has been prone to leaving people on base, and not converting our RISP yet. The bombs are there, but the regular hits that can open up a game haven't really shown up consistently. They will in time (I hope), but going 1-7 with RISP and stranding 9 base runners is never a good thing, win or lose. That's what we did in this game. That's why we weren't winning 8-1 in the 6th inning. The difference in scores can mean you don't use your closer, you don't put in your normal bullpen guys, and maybe you let your starter go even longer in the game. Minor was only at 86 pitches when he was pulled. Blowouts can give some guys some rest that can make a difference late in the season. That being said, Kimbrel looked like he was out for blood when he rushed up a few 98 mph fastballs in the ninth. Completely unhittable for his 2nd save.
Most surreal moment of the game? Chipper Jones and the broadcast boys going back and forth over Chipper's bobblehead being called "Vintage" now that he's retired, and then an old Dale Murphy commercial where Dale was pimping Braves merchandize while reading from a teleprompter in the 80s. You can already tell they are going to have a lot of fun at Chip's expense during the year, and the old grey mare isn't going to take it lying down on his Twitter account.
The CPA is now 2-2 with last night's win. Tonight we have a much anticipated start by Teheran against the Cubs. Let's see what the numbers say:
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 5 - Cubs 2
The CPA believes Villanueva may have trouble against the lineup tonight, since many guys like Freeman and the Uptons have gotten a hold of him in limited ABs. Tonight would be the night for BJ to break out of the slump.