Friday, April 06, 2007

3 down, 159 to go...

You couldn't have asked for more in the Braves' opening series in Philadelphia. With several Philly players shooting off at the mouth in the closing weeks of spring training about how they were the team to beat in the NL East, Atlanta used their new bullpen and extremely clutch hitting - and clutch hitting not from the Jones Boys, but from Edgar Renteria, Brian McCann, and Scott Thorman - to gut out a 5-3 10 inning victory, and a 3-2 11 inning victory in the first two games. Then when you were feeling nervous about the bats after Smoltz and Hudson turned in great performances, the Braves errupted on Adam Eaton in an 8-4 victory to complete the sweep, with another great starting pitching performance, this time from Chuck James. The result: 3-0, the first opening series sweep for the Braves - notoriously bad in April - since 1994.

And now, if there's such a thing as an important series in April, this is it: the hated New York Mets, defending NL East Champions, and fresh off their own road three game sweep, of the defending champion Cardinals no less (combined score in 3 games: Mets 20 - Cardinals 2), come to Atlanta for the weekend. Tonight's game between Oliver Perez and new Brave Mark Redman will be a nice opener, but the real gem will be Saturday: Tom Glavine vs. John Smoltz for only the second time, and for the first time in Atlanta. Their only previous meeting, from 2005, saw both pitchers give up only one run in seven innings, in a game the Braves would eventually win. Smoltz, your big game pitcher of choice, had a 2.33 ERA against the Mets last year in four starts.

All joking aside, whether the Braves sweep or get swept this weekend, April is still April, and we've still got a long way to go. But so far, you have to like everything you've seen. The series in Philadelphia was a big statement. The weekend in Atlanta is even more important.

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