The first homestand of the season presented an early test to an Atlanta squad out to prove itself against the rest of the National League.

 

The Braves dropped two of three to the Philadelphia Phillies, but came in to the mid-week series against Florida knowing they had run into some good pitching, and there was very good pitching still ahead.


Tommy Hanson put his first two starts of the season, both winless, behind him and pitched 7 shutout innings against a very tough Marlin lineup.


Hanson gave up four hits, struck out five and walked two, getting offensive support that has not always accompanied his starts.


The Atlanta offense put up five runs in Hanson’s first two starts in Washington and Milwaukee before the 5-0 victory Tuesday night.


Martin Prado provided the spark, Nate McLouth doubled him around and Chipper’s single drove McLouth in.


Jason Heyward hit his third of the year to deep center in the fourth, and Chipper’s sac fly scored Prado before Brian McCann hit his first home run of the early season.


Game two was a completely different story for the Braves, as Tim Hudson, who had been dazzling in his first two starts of the season, was roughed up early, giving up a run in the first before three more in the second.


If that wasn’t enough of a mountain to overcome, Josh Johnson was dealing zero’s, racking up 9 K’s, walking three along the way to throw 109 pitches.


It wasn’t a pretty day to be an Atlanta hitter, but these things happen, and it is still early in the season. Much too early to worry about the depth or potency of the lineup.


With that, Freddie Freeman broke through in the bottom of the 8th with a bloop double over third base, ending Johnson’s day and a bid at a no-hitter.


In his final at bat of the day, Chipper nailed a Randy Choate offering to center field, his first on the year. He collected his 1,500th RBI on the solo shot, but the Braves lost 5-1.


Thursday, neither team worried about offense early, as the Marlins scored 3 in the top of the first before the Braves scored 4 with no out in the bottom of the first.


Prado led off with a single and took third on McLouth’s single. Chipper’s single knocked Prado in, bringing up McCann with two men on and no out
McCann turned on a Ricky Nolasco offering and drilled it to right for his second home run on the year, giving the Braves a 4-3 lead.


The lead was short lived, as Beachy gave up runs in the top of the second and third, allowing Florida to take a 5-4 lead.


Dan Uggla drilled a Nolasco offering leading off the fourth to tie the game.


Beachy gave way to the bullpen, who had shut down the Marlins in the first two games, hoping any of the guys Fredi Gonzalez called on could keep the game close.


Eric O’Flaherty gave up the 6th and winning run in the top of the 7th on three straight singles, but overall, the bullpen, when called upon this season, has been outstanding, compiling a 2.78 ERA over the first 12 games.

The Braves made strides against the Marlins, battling a tough team, with a top-of-the-line starter in Josh Johnson, and a very tough lineup, each game.

Now, it is on to face the New York Mets, a team that has had trouble putting scoring rallies together over its past few games and has dropped to 4-9 record.

Derek Lowe will kick off the series against the Mets opposite D.J Carrasco, who have lost five straight, including getting swept at the hands of the Colorado Rockies in a four-game set.

The Mets will be looking to get back on track, as new manager Terry Collins’ is not pleased with the ‘dismal’ start his club is off to.

In the second game, Jair Jurrjens will make his first start of the season, looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2010 and get off on the right foot in 2011. Collin’s will send Mike Pelfrey to the mound for the Mets.

In the finale, Hanson will look for his second win of the season opposite newcomer-Chris Young. Young signed with the Mets in the offseason after four productive years with the San Diego Padres that ended in an injury-riddled 2010.


If the Braves want to close the homestand out on a positive note, they need to take two of three from the Mets before heading west for a 10-game California swing.


Three keys to winning the series

1. Shut down Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis. If any of these sparkplugs get going, the Atlanta pitching staff will be in for a long day.

2. Make their pitching staff work. The starters come in with a 5.29 ERA, and the bullpen holds a 5.23 ERA. 

3. Play smart, fundamental baseball. This Mets team is already having enough problems scoring runs. Limiting errors will reduce the amount of scoring opportunities the Mets get.


After losing four of the first six games of the homestand, the Braves know there is nothing like winning at home, but they must start doing so now, even if it is early in the year.