Opening Day! It doesn’t get more exciting than that…and as people filled the various ballparks across the country, Turner Field was packed as well, as the Braves and Phillies kicked off the 2013 campaign.
Starting for Atlanta was Tim Hudson, the 37-year old veteran of the squad. Opposing him was Cole Hamels, the ace of the Phillies staff, and one of the better left-handed pitchers in the game today.
The Braves were debuting their new outfield of Justin and B.J. Upton to go along with Jason Heyward, and big things are expected from them. The Braves were also sporting a new third baseman in Chris Johnson (who will platoon, at least early on, with Juan Francisco, who was Chipper’s backup last year).
So what did we learn from the first game of the year?
1 – Tim Hudson still has to be able to locate and get strike one on batter to stay effective. Hudson’s key pitch is a sinker that, when on, is one of the better pitches in baseball. It’s effective at getting ground balls but when his command is not what it should be, he stays up in the zone and he simply doesn’t have the velocity anymore to blow hitters away. Chase Utley has particular success against Hudson last night when Hudson failed to get his sinker to sink. But Hudson is a battler and he kept the Phillies mostly in check last night.
2 – Freddie Freeman could be up for a super huge year. This guy’s swing has very little wrong with it, and he sees the ball in the zone and really puts good swings on the ball to all fields. He had a tremendous spring and I predict he’ll be one of the leaders in many offensive categories come the All-Star Break.
3 – The bullpen, while a touch shaky, showed why it could be one of the best in baseball. Kimbrel pitched well to close the game, after a few command issues in the spring, and Avilan was also solid. O’Flaherty and Walden both gave up runs but neither pitched that bad. The Phillies have a pretty good offensive lineup so you don’t have too much to be ashamed of when they score on you.
4 – Justin Upton and Dan Uggla both went deep (along with Freeman) and it showed that we could be up for a huge year in the power department from this Braves squad. But, they did strike out 8 times in 33 plate appearances as a team, so hopefully more plate discipline will result in that number coming down into the more manageable 4-6 range.
The Braves are off today and head back onto the field on Wednesday as Paul Maholm and Roy Halladay face off. Go Braves!