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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Opening Day Thrills For Braves, Lukewarm For Phillies


After the Phillies and their fans celebrated their 2008 World Series championship, the Braves quickly reminded them that there is a lot of work to do if they're to celebrate like that again.

Derek Lowe was masterful in his first start for Atlanta and the Braves launched three home runs off of Phillie starter Brett Myers to pace the team early. The visitors held off a ninth-inning rally by the Phillies to earn a 4-1 victory.

Lowe, a sinker ball specialist, limited the Phillies to just two hits, a double and single, in eight innings. He induced 13 ground balls and the . His outing is rare for Braves' Opening Day starters. Since 1954, only five other Braves pitchers have allowed no runs on Opening Day for the Braves:

  • Lew Burdette, 1956
  • Warren Spahn, 1959
  • Rick Mahler, 1982, 1986, 1987
  • Tom Glavine, 1992
  • Greg Maddux, 1993, 1994

  • Lowe joins Maddux in that they didn't pitch complete-game shutouts in their stints.

    Catcher Brian McCann got the Braves on the board in the first inning. After Chipper Jones singled to left-center with two out, McCann launched a Brett Myers change-up into the second deck in right to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead.

    The second inning wasn't much better for Myers. Jeff Francoeur led off the inning with a lined shot into the left field stands. After Casey Kotchman struck out, Jordan Schafer made his major league debut. Schafer worked the count to 3-1, and then nailed a two-seamer to the left-center bleachers. He became the 99th major league player to hit a home run in his first at bat and the first Brave to do it since Jermaine Dye did it 13 years ago.

    Myers limited any further damage, going six innings in his stint, and four Phillies relievers held the Braves off of the scoreboard.

    Bobby Cox, the Braves manager, opted to go with closer Mike Gonzalez in the ninth inning. This move was most likely due to two things: Lowe is going to pitch the Braves' home opener on the 10th against the Nationals and he was at 97 pitches.

    Gonzalez faced pinch-hitter Eric Bruntlett and gave up a double to left that was just fair. After a fly ball by Jimmy Rollins moved Bruntlett over to third, Jayson Werth singled him home to give the Phillies their first run. A walk given to Chase Utley set up the chance for the Phillies to be able to tie the game with one swing of the bat. Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez were two prime candidates to launch a tater. But Gonzalez got Howard looking on a full-count fastball right down the heart of the plate and he blew away Ibanez with a fastball for the final out.

    The teams will have an early off-day before resuming the series on Tuesday.

    W - Derek Lowe (1-0)
    L - Brett Myers (0-1)
    HR - Brian McCann (1)
    Jeff Francoeur (1)
    Jordan Schafer (1)


    SP Derek Lowe, Atlanta - W, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO

    CF Jordan Schafer, Atlanta - 2-3, HR, R, BB, RBI

    C Brian McCann - 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI

    AP Photo by John Amis

    EDIT: I updated the reference to Braves pitchers allowing no runs in their Opening Day starts of eight innings or more, adding Maddux, Spahn, and two of Rick Mahler's years. Also added photo credit and changed link to's boxscore and play-by-play.

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