MIAMI — After an offseason that saw them part with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and, on the eve of opening day, Craig Kimbrel, the Braves finally played a game Monday against Miami. And they won.
Two runs via “small ball” and strong work from starter Julio Teheran and the bullpen gave the Braves a 2-1 win over the Marlins to open the season.
So there you go. The dismantled Braves are in first place.
I’ll post a column on the game on MyAJC.com
UPDATE: Here’s a link to the full game column.
Here are my three “Short Takes” on the game:
1. Bullpen passes first test: Nobody should have been surprised that starter Julio Teheran pitched six strong innings, allowing one run and five hits. But when Teheran allowed three straight singles to load the bases in the seventh, he was pulled, setting up the first test of the season for the Braves’ reworked bullpen that was now minus closer Craig Kimbrel. Results: Luis Avilan got Jarrod Saltalamacchia to hit into a 5-2-3 double play. Jim Johnson got Adeiny Hechavarria on a pop-up to end the scoring threat, then retired the Marlins in order in the eighth. And in Craig Kimbrel time, new closer Jason Grilli did a pretty good impersonation: he struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Michael Morse and retired Martin Prado on a line out to second baseman Jace Peterson. Just how John Hart and Fredi Gonzalez drew it up.
2. The clutch of Markakis: Free agent right fielder Nick Markakis was the only player Braves executive John Hart spent real money on this offseason (four years, $44 million). But even Hart had low expectations for Markakis in the first “four to six weeks” of the season because Markakis did little for much of spring training while recovering from herniated disk surgery. Hart: “He just hasn’t had the volume of work.” But Markakis came through in the clutch twice — with a one-out RBI single in the first inning (after Jace Peterson singled and was balked to second) and a ground ball to the right of the infield scoring Eric Young, Jr. from third base in the sixth.
3. Only the Marlins: Miami is expected to have a pretty good team this season. But is there a dysfunctional organization more likely than the Marlins that would have an Opening Day rain delay of 16 minutes — despite playing in a stadium with a retractable roof? I guess Marlins Park isn’t wired for radar, or even the Weather Channel. Despite suddenly overcast skies and cool breezes that suggested rain might be coming in the bottom of the second inning, the roof stayed open. Rain fell, play was stopped and a delay ensued while the roof was closed, a painfully slow process. Unlike at most ballparks, the Marlins’ grounds crew could not roll a rain tarp onto the field or at least the pitcher’s mound. Why? Because who would think a tarp would be needed with a roof?