There's no place like home. It's no shock that the Braves were able to shake off a long road trip with some home cooking, but it was a shock that we won our first game of the season without hitting a dinger. Personally, I take that as a great sign that the Braves are finally learning how to win in different ways. There are times where I think we'll need to grind during the season, especially at home. That's when we want to step back, focus on the kind of small ball and contact that we got used to in our 2012 run, and really dial up the pitching intensity. The game last night was a great example of that mentality.
The RISP numbers last night were 3-9, which is the magic .300+ number you all know I love. We get above that, and I can assure you we'll win many more games than we lose. One odd thing that stands out is the only multi-bagger hit was by the pitcher, Julio Teheran. We basically singled, dinked, and dunked the Nats to death. Also, one of the guys on the watch list, Dan Uggla, went 2/4 while seeing 17 pitches and driving up the count. Schafer was really on point at the top of the lineup, doing something that nobody has done in the leadoff spot so far this season (get on base all 4 plate appearances). Plus he stole two bags. Working counts, making the pitcher worry about you on base, being pesky, and generally making the other team hate your guts. These are the marks of a good leadoff hitter. The words "tough out" should accompany your name. I like the position that Schafer is putting the Braves in if he continues to produce, because we have a giant hole in the lineup with BJ's bat right now. Schafer is a natural CF by position. There's a platoon in the making until BJ gets rescued from whatever Gilligan's Island of Hitting he's stranded on.
The starting pitching wasn't great by Teheran, but it wasn't bad either. I think Julio is learning how to manage failure, which is the mark of a more mature starter. You have to be able to collect yourself if you put two men on the corners with no outs, and get out of the inning with only one run scoring. You have to forget that runner on third is there and focus on what you can control. Julio did that yesterday, and it saved the game for the Braves. Giving up 10 hits and only 2 runs is going to be something of an anomoly this season. You can't expect to put that many guys on and have it work in your favor with defense and buckling down. The percentages eventually burn you. However, it worked THIS time, and that's all we care about as fans. When you win the close games without pitching your best, that's how championship season runs are born.
What hasn't waivered is the bullpen. In a battle of the pens between us and the Nats, we will bury them. Walden looked masterful with 3 Ks in 1.2 innings, EOF made the Nats look silly with 2 Ks in 1 inning, and Kimbrel shut the door with 1 K in the 9th inning save. In a total of 3.2 innings, the Nats didn't touch a base off our pen, and we won the game off of theirs. You get to the 7th against us either tied or down? More times than not, we win and you lose, suckers. Believe that.
The CPA got back to it's winning ways as well last night, bringing it to 11-8 on the season. How does it feel about Huddy's chance at getting his 200th win tonight?
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 5 - Nats 1
The CPA thinks Huddy finally gets that 200th win. The Nats traditionally haven't hit him well with the exception of Werth and Desmond. If Huddy can selectively pitch to those guys, the rest of the lineup for the Nats is struggling right now. Meanwhile, you know that Gonzalez has bad memories of the last time he faced the Braves, and he may try to get too fine against our batters. That means more walks, especially to a guy like Uggla who's been very patient. If I were looking at a player who can have a big day for the Braves, it's Simmons. His RH bat has been tough on Gonzalez in the past.