I had a great time at the Braves' home opener last night, in part because of the great weather, in part because of a lively sell-out crowd (see, we can sell out!), and in part because the team won and got their first good starting performance of the season from John Thomson. Thomson then illustrated what finely-tuned athletes pitchers are by having to leave the game after the fifth inning because he had to run too hard on his two-run double in the 4th inning. (In his defense, he was hurt for much of spring training, so his pitching endurance is understandably lacking right now.) Thomson threw strikes (he walked only one of the 21 batters he faced) and only allowed one extra-base hit, a double to Jimmy Rollins who is the Phightin' Phils' best hitter right now.
The downside is that the fine folks who run the Ted were totally unprepared for the fact that the crowd wanted to eat and drink. It wasn't quite as bad as the infamous Georgia-Clemson game in 2003, which was played on a sweltering day and naturally, the concessionaires at Death Valley ran out of drinks in the upper deck in the second half, presumably to make the analogy to the actual Death Valley as tight as possible. Still, by the fifth inning when my hunger got the better of me, the lines at the concession stands were two innings long, soft drinks were no longer an option because of a CO2 shortage (I thought about cracking that I'd be happy to breathe into the tanks, but the chances of the friendly ARA employees getting that joke were slim and none), and the beer was warm. The most amusing sight was a large man in my section with his large kids who ordered food from an attendant, then, having not received his food 50 minutes later, stormed off to the concessions stands, fuming that his children had to eat. The guy then apparently blew a gasket when he found out that soft drinks were not in the picture. The kids could probably stand to skip a meal or seven and it wasn't necessary to act as if the one-hour delay in scarfing down nitrites was the equivalent of being trapped in Leningrad in 1943, eating rodents and plaster from the walls. Then again, I don't have kids yet, so I'm probably being cavalier about dealing with a whining, hungry little person.
We've been surrounded by the Fascists for two years, but there's a shipment of foot-long hot dogs coming on the Road of Life over Lake Ladoga.
Anyway, major demerits to the Braves for their apparent surprise that the home opener would draw a large crowd or that this large crowd would have pent up desires for ballpark food that would be unleashed in a frenzy of consumption. The Braves blew a chance to make some money and they caused more than a few paying patrons to leave dissatisfied, which is never good with 80 home dates remaining. I was also vexed by having to sit for an hour in the Blue Lot trying to leave at the end of the evening, but that was my own mistake for parking in the lots as opposed to parking downtown and walking, which is always faster and carries the added benefit of making me unlike the unwashed hordes of Braves fans who view walking more than 200 yards as some sort of step towards Bolshevism.
To the game:
1. Francoeur swings at a lot of crap out of the zone, especially low balls. He's making Javy Lopez circa 2002 (the "I never met a slider down and away that I couldn't wave at" Javy) look selective. Turning an Aaron Rowand single into a triple was the cherry on top of the sundae. In his defense, there was at least one instance in which a Philly runner didn't try to go first to third on a base hit because of Francoeur's arm and that sort of contribution doesn't show up in a box score, so Jeff isn't totally useless right now. He also had a base hit stolen by a great play by David Bell, who played a great defensive game at third.
2. Baseball would be so much better in person if there was a limitation on pitching changes. The game last night was crisp and well-played for the first five innings and then devolved into the March of Bataan over the final several innings as inept relievers came in and out.
3. Want a great illustration of how useless pitching wins and losses can be? John Thomson threw a very good game last night, allowing one unearned run in five innings. Oscar Villareal threw one inning, gave up a run, and got the win because he happened to blow the lead right before Marcus Giles went deep in the bottom of the 7th. If Villareal pitches a perfect inning, he doesn't get the win. Makes perfect sense to me.
4. Andruw hit a bomb to center for his third home run last night on a pitch that did not look bad at all from Brett Myers, a fastball that was tailing inside. [Ed. Note: I watched a replay on the Braves' site and the pitch was actually a fastball that tailed from the outside corner to the middle of the plate. Since Lieberthal was set up outside, it was certainly a mistake.] Is it a sign that I can never be happy that my first comment after the homer was "can you imagine if he would have widened his stance in 1999 as opposed to 2005?"
5. For all of my bad feelings about the team's start, the offense has been a sight to behold. The Braves have out-homered their opponents 14-4 and they've scored 13 more runs than anyone else in baseball (albeit in more games). I know it's early, but if I'm going to hyperventilate about the pitching, then I might as well acknowledge that the bats have been great for the first eight days of the season. If we got anything from our rightfielder, then things would be even better.