After last year, it's so refreshing to watch games like those of the last two nights against the Padres. The Braves get a good start, then the bullpen keeps the team in the game and holds the lead once the team rallies late. I could really get used to Gonzalez and Soriano (another one of those dark-skinned players that the Braves apparently shun) dominating in 8th and 9th innings for another 129 games. My only concern is that Bobby Cox is using both of them a lot, so are they going to wear down as the season progresses?
Anthony Lerew's start on Tuesday night was also a major encouragement. After the Mark Redman Experience, I'll take any sort of minimal competence from the fifth starter spot. Lerew delivered a good start and I don't expect five innings and two runs from him every night, especially once major league hitters start to get a sense for his approach, but he's already moved ahead of Redman. The bigger concern is that Chuck James has been struggling, but that really shouldn't be a huge surprise because his peripherals did not match up with his performance last year or in his first starts this year.
I'm also feeling a major Charles Thomas vibe from Willie Harris, another spunky, fast leftfielder from nowhere who will hopefully have a career year and lead the Braves to a divisional title. Maybe the Braves' adjustment to his swing has really turned him into a good hitter. It wouldn't be the first time that the team took a player from the Red Sox and improved his performance dramatically. (See: Renteria, Edgar.) Call it vengeance for Nick Esasky.
At this stage, the Braves, Mets, and Brewers have distanced themselves from the rest of the NL, although the Cubs' excellent run differential indicates that they are going to be a contender as well. The West, as usual, is a mish-mash of pretty good teams, along with the Rockies.