Friday, April 08, 2005

And after all that talk about a good start being irrelevant to the Braves...

They're 2-1 after taking two tight, defensive games from the Marlins. The bats have been pretty dreadful so far, but keep in mind that the Braves went up against three good pitchers (Beckett, Leiter, and Burnett) and did so without Marcus Giles and Johnny Estrada for most of the series. Incidentally, the Marlins represent a real threat to win the division if Burnett and Beckett are healthy because they'll be able to roll Dontrelle Willis out as their fourth starter. Contrast them with the more-hyped Mets, who, after Pedro, have Glavine (who's over the hill,) Victor Zambrano (who led MLB in walks last year despite being injured for the final portion of the season,) and Kaz Ishii (oooh!). The Braves have a good excuse for averaging two runs per game against the Marlins' staff; they don't have a good excuse for not scoring some runs this weekend.

The pleasant surprise from the first series was the performance of the bullpen. I told you people not to worry as long as the Braves have 3-4 reliable relievers, but I wasn't expecting to get three shutout innings from Tom Martin and Adam Bernero on Wednesday night. I was watching a tape of the Chelsea/Bayern Munich game and intermittently checking up on the Braves on Wednesday night. When I saw that Martin was starting the 10th and the score was still 1-1, I proclaimed that the game would be over by the next time I checked. Happily, I was wrong, although Martin only got out of the inning because of a bad bunt by Juan Pierre, so I'm not expecting him to be able to repeat his feat. The pen that the Braves rolled out last night for the final four innings - Sosa, Gryboski, Reitsma, and Kolb - is more than sufficient to win games, as long as those guys aren't overused.

The defense has been pretty good so far, which is important with a groundball staff. The Braves have turned a ton of double plays so far, which is partly a function of their pitching and partly a function of having good middle infielders. The double play in the 13th inning on Wednesday night was especially nice. Dan Kolb got Miguel Cabrera to ground to deep short and Furcal and Orr both had very strong throws to get two.

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