I’ll be back soon with a column on the Braves’ series-opening 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals. Until then, here are my three “short takes” on the game.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to the full column on MyAJC.com.
1. PITCHING PROBLEMS? WHAT PROBLEMS? So much for injuries to the pitching staff devastating this team. In the first four games of this seasons, the Braves started an improbable quartet of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Aaron Harang and David Hale. Result: The team is 3-1 after Friday’s 2-1 win over the Nationals and own the best staff ERA in the majors at 1.29. Hale, making only his third career start, did not allow a run in his five innings, though he pitched out of a few jams and benefited from an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning being overturned on replay (see below). Obviously, the staff ERA of 1.29 is going to go up at some point. But the fact the Braves are more than surviving during this early period of the season despite missing several starters (two lost for the season; three on the disabled list) is significant.
2. BRAVES ARE LIKING REPLAY: The Braves are now 2-0 in replays and they seemed to be living a charmed existence when the Nationals went from a 1-0 lead to a runner in scoring position to bases empty. Manager Fredi Gonzalez won his second challenge of the season, negating Ian Desmond’s inside-the-park homer in the fifth. Desmond’s drive down the left field line got stuck in the padding in foul territory. Justin Upton raised his arms, attempting to signal the umpires that the ball was unplayable. But third base umpire Marvin Hudson did nothing and initially ruled the ball was “live.” By the time Upton went to dislodge the ball, Desmond had scored. Gonzalez challenged the play, saying it should’ve been ruled a dead ball and a ground-rule double. Replay confirmed that. Nationals fans booed as Desmond returned to second. Then it got worse for Washington: Desmond was caught in a rundown.
3. UPTON AND UPTON: The Braves are winning because of their pitching obviously, not their hitting (now .183 as a team). But the Upton brothers are struggling more than anybody. Both went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Friday. For the season, B.J. Upton is 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts. Justin Upton is 1 for 15 with seven strikeouts. So combined, they are 2-for-31 (.065) with 16 strikeouts. When somebody mentioned how impressive the team’s pitching has been, Gonzalez smiled and said, “Yeah. Now we just need to get the hitting going.”