The Atlanta Braves were a major league best 56-25 at home in 2010, and if they want to get back to the playoffs in 2011 they will need similar positive results at Turner Field. Despite securing the first winning series since the opening weekend of the season in Washington, the Braves couldn’t quite polish off a sweep of the struggling New York Mets on Sunday as Tommy Hanson got outdueled by Mets minor league call-up Dillon Gee. After giving up two first inning runs, Hanson settled in nicely to the tune of nine strikeouts, but a botched squeeze attempt in the second inning by Hanson himself hung Erick Hinske out to dry in the third base line and capped a potentially explosive inning at just a single run, and other than a solo homerun blast from Jason Heyward to lead off the eighth, that’s all the Braves offense could muster in support of a frustrated Hanson (now 1-3). The Braves are now 1-4 in one run games in the earlygoing, a stat that will have to change if the Braves want to get on any kind of roll. For the most part the pitching has been there, as expected, but the offense needs to catch up to the arms. New skipper Fredi Gonzalez has shown a willingness to be a little more aggressive than the beloved Bobby Cox with squeeze attempts, hit and runs, and straight steals. For his strategy to pay off however, his offense is going to have to step it up a little bit. Nate McLouth needs to get on base more consistently ahead of the heart of the lineup to utilize his speed and get in scoring position, Dan Uggla needs to stop swinging for the fences trying to win over his new team and limit the strikeouts, and Jason Heyward needs to take advantage of his keen eye and plate discipline to get that average and on-base percentage back up to where we’re used to seeing it (already). The good news? Freddie Freeman looks much more relaxed at the plate then he did in the first 2 weeks of the season and has shown an innate ability to pick ‘em at first base saving the infield at least 4 or 5 throwing errors, defensive whiz Alex Gonzalez showed some pop over the weekend with 2 solo homers, Jair Jurrjens had a dazzling return from the DL on Saturday throwing 7 innings of shutout ball, perennial All-Star Brian McCann has been, well, Brian McCann, and Chipper Jones looks healthy and motivated. But despite winning the opening game in all three home series’ against three division rivals (and every series of the season so far as a matter of fact) the Braves finished up the first homestand of the 2011 season 4-5 and are now 7-9 overall, and head out to L.A. for a brutal 10 game swing on the west coast against the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres. It won’t get any easier for the bats anytime soon with the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Matt Latos waiting for them in California, but it will be a great test for this team to see where they stand in the National League. Tim Hudson gets the rock in Game 1 against the Dodgers and Ted Lilly to get things kicked off tomorrow night. Braves fans wouldn’t want it any other way.
About the Author
Written by Marcus Young
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!" The late great Skip Caray with my favorite sports call of all time as a lumbering Sid Bream was able to beat Barry Bonds' three-hopper to the plate by an eyelash in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to secure the Atlanta Braves' miraculous back-to-back World Series trips in 1991 and 1992. I grew up in Atlanta, I am still a die hard Braves, Falcons, and Hawks fan and am hungry for another championship to put alongside that lonely 1995 World Series trophy! I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2002 and am back living in Hot-lanta now. Go Deacs and Go Dawgs! My favorite athletes are John Smoltz, Magic Johnson, and Brett Favre. Braves are on a mission in 2011 in the 20th anniversary of that magical 1991 season!