Heading into the midweek series against the Mets, the Braves were not sure what to expect.
For starters, what was the status of Jason Heyward, who made a rehab start at Triple-A Gwinnett Monday night, or the status’ of Nate McLouth and Brandon Beachy.
Game 1 saw Freddie Freeman get scratched before the first pitch with a possible strained oblique muscle, possibly a lengthy injury if not properly taken care of.
The Mets got one the board first, courtesy of Jose Reyes, but the Braves tied it up in the second when Joe Mather’s single scored David Ross.
It was Mather’s first RBI since May 21 in Anaheim, when he had 4.
The Mets went up 3-1 in the 3rd and tacked on another run off Jair Jurrjens before the starter exited without earning another consecutive start to begin the season.
The Braves made a late charge when Ross’ double scored Alex Gonzalez in the 7th and Dan Uggla hit a solo homer in the 8th, but Francisco Rodriguez held down the 9th for the save.
Jurrjens worked 5 1/3, his shortest outing of the season this far, allowing all 4 runs on 8 hits while walking 5 and striking out 4, taking his 3rd loss on the year. George Sherrill, Scott Proctor and Craig Kimbrel each pitched scoreless innings of relief.
Game 2 saw everything but what the Braves and their fans wanted: rain, hail a delayed first pitch.
What started out as the return of Heyward on his bobblehead night ended in a manner seemingly fit for the way the Braves when playing the Mets.
Amid all the delays, the Mets managed to blank the Braves, 4-0, behind rookie Dillon Gee, who continued his mastery of the Braves and the National League.
Gee allowed one hit, an Alex Gonzalez double, through four innings before his night ended after the second rain delay. Three other Mets relievers combined to hold the Braves offense to one hit, a Brooks Conrad single. Gee struck out 5 and walked two, and reliever Bobby Parnell also struck out 5.
Tim Hudson took the loss Tuesday, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits before the rain but a halt on the contest. Cristian Martinez gave up the other run before Scott Linebrink and Eric O’Flaherty came in to finish the game. Hudson finished going 4 innings, striking out 4 and walking one
Wednesday’s finale saw the return of Freeman to the lineup after two days off, as well as the hope that Mike Minor might be able to grab his first win of 2011.
Even as Chipper Jones was giving Minor the run support one might have thought he could have worked with, the Braves saw the young lefty get into trouble in the top of the 5th, walking the first two batters and giving up an RBI single before Proctor came in, only to give up a 3-run homer to Scott Hairston, tying the ballgame at 6.
The Mets took an 8-6 lead after Jonny Venters wild pitch in the 8th, but the Braves still had a little magic left in them.
After Heyward singled to center, Conrad came up against Rodriguez and launched an offering over the wall in right, tying the game at 8. K-Rod closed down the inning to send the game into extra innings, but that is when things got interesting.
With two outs, Diory Hernandez doubled and took third on a Jordan Schafer (5-for-6) infield single. Not wanting to give in to the powerful, young left, DJ Carrasco, the Mets reliever, did all he could, but was unable to stop himself from balking, allowing Hernandez to score from 3rd and ending the ballgame, 9-8, on a balk.
This was a game, that if not for the balk, might have gone well into Friday.
Now, the Braves welcome the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers to town.
While the Rangers have lost 5 in a row, they are not a team to overlook, loaded with weapons like Josh Hamilton (2010 AL MVP), Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, former Brave prospect Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre.
This is the first time Andrus will get a chance to play at Turner Field since the Braves traded him and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Rangers for Mark Texiera.
But Friday’s scheduled starter, Tommy Hanson, is out with inflammation in his throwing shoulder and Chipper is out with a groin injury, just what the Braves needed to happen to one of their most consistent hitters.
The Braves will send Randall Delgado to the mound for Fridays opener opposite in his first MLB start Colby Lewis. In his last start, Lewis lasted 1 1/3 innings against the Twins, giving up 6 runs on 7 hits in an 8-1 loss.
Saturday’s middle game will feature Derek Lowe against Matt Harrison. Lowe’s last start was like his previous starts, not pretty. Lowe lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up 5 runs and 8 hits against the Astros in a 5-3 Braves loss. Harrison went 6 innings, giving up 1 run and 2 hits in his last start, a 6-1 loss to Minnesota.
In Sunday’s finale, Alexi Ogando will go opposite Jurrjens. Ogando was roughed up in his previous start against the Yankees, giving up 6 runs on 6 hits in 1 1/3 innings during a 7-1 Rangers loss.
Keys to the series
- Limit the Rangers offense
- American League lineups are known to have more pop, but not many are comparable to that of the Rangers. With Andrus at the top with Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz and Young to follow, the Rangers order is a murderer’s row of sorts. Every batter must be pitched different
- Find the offense
- Schafer had a huge day Thursday, going 5-for-6 and raising his average to .256. But with Chipper and Prado out, the Braves are missing two of their most consistent hitters, as well as third basemen. Schafer must continue to spark the offense and the rest of the lineup must awaken their bats
- Believe in the magic at Turner Field
- Even if Thursdays game ended on a balk, Conrad’s two run shot in the 9th proved there is still magic afloat at the Ted. Continue to scratch and claw at the oppositions leads, and any comeback is possible.