Philadelphia – Until Chipper Jones was scratched from the lineup 45 minutes ago with a bruised left thumb and hand, things couldn’t have possibly gone much better for the Braves in their season-opening visit to the home of brotherly love and cheesesteaks.
He’s not seriously injured, or at least Chipper says he’s not. But I can attest to their being some rather ugly discoloration on the thumb, index finger and hand at the base of both digits. I looked at it while ago in the clubhouse.
And to think, we were going to start this blog with something about how today is the 35th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home run off the Dodgers’ Al Downing at old Fulton County Stadium.
Anyway, Jones seems sure it’s just a bruise, the result of getting jammed by pitches a few times in the past week. Said he’s got no top-hand strength batting left-handed, and Braves are facing a righty today, Joe Blanton.
So, Chipper will rest it and use the off day tomorrow to give him more than two full days to heal before the home opener Friday night. He’s confident he’ll be in there to face Nationals righty Shairon Martis on Friday (Braves face lefty John Lannan on Saturday, and lefty Scott Olsen on Sunday).
According to SABR’s McCotter, Chipper’s streak is also the longest by any hitter against the Phillies since ‘54, ahead of 25-game streaks by Orlando Cepeda and Pete Rose.
OK, but the streaks are on hold. So let’s deal with today.
Omar Infante replaces Chipper at third base today, and Garret Anderson moves up from fifth to Chipper’s No. 3 spot in the order. Braves are fortunate to have a healthy Infante and Martin Prado on a strong bench this season. (Moments after I posted this blog, Braves announced Anderson was scratched after tweaking his right calf, the same calf he strained in spring training, which kept him out for three weeks. Don’t know if it happened in pregame or what, but his was a late scratch, call from clubhouse after 3 p.m.)
OK, back to the blog: Remember last year, Infante was hurt to begin the season, and Prado also missed more than a month early on. It wasn’t until the second half of the season that most of us realized just how much they were missed. Those are two good players, and with an injury-prone player like Chipper, particularly crucial having capable, proven backup to step in.
♣ Before the Chipper injury …. This is something we had written for today’s blog before we were interrupted by the Chipper news and made a dash back downstairs to talk to him and write for our website.
After playing their first two games of the season at homer-happy Citizens Bank Park, the Braves lead the majors with a 0.50 ERA, and already have half as many wins against the Phillies as they last season.
Oh, and their starters are the only ones in baseball who’ve yet to give up a run entering today’s series finale.
But I would caution the Braves/MIB denizens not to get too excited just yet. For one thing, Javier Vazquez starts this afternoon’s series finale, and he’s 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA in two career starts at Citizens Bank Park.
He’s allowed five homers in 10 innings at the venue that Philly folks call “The Bank,” and that was before the Phillies acquired Raul Ibanez. The former Seattle Mariner is 5-for-14 with two homers against Vazquez.
Secondly, several Braves noted last night that the stiff wind kept at least a couple of towering Philly flyballs in the park.
It was howling in from left field, and the only way a ball was likely to get out to left or center was if hit low — the way that Chipper Jones hit his fifth-inning homer, below the wind (by the way, the wind appears to be blowing from left to right today, which could help lefty hitters on both left-heavy teams).
And finally, let’s not forget what happened the last time the Braves swept the Phillies in a season-opening series. That was a three-game series in 2007, here in Philly, and oddly enough, in the first two games the Braves hit five homers and scored eight runs, just as they’ve done in the first two of this series.
(You’d never guess the three winning pitchers for the Braves in that series, so I’ll give them to you: Bob Wickman, Macay McBride, and Chuck James, who got the win in the 8-4 series finale. Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?)
Anyway, the Braves swept that series and also won their next game against the Phillies on April 30 in Atlanta.
But after winning those four, the Braves lost 23 of their next 30 games against the Phillies, a miserable stretch that lasted through Sept. 22, 2008.
The Braves, after losing 14 of their first 16 against the Phillies last season, won the last two against them Sept. 23-24 in Philadelphia. Now they’ve won the first two against them this season, for a four-game winning streak against the NL East champions, with all four wins coming at Citizens Bank Park.
Things could get interesting, folks.
“FORT WORTH BLUES” by Steve Earle
In Fort Worth all the neon’s burnin’ bright
Pretty lights red and blue
But they’d shut down all the honky tonks tonight
And say a prayer or two
If they only knew
You used to say the highway was your home
But we both know that ain’t true
It’s just the only place a man can go
When he don’t know where he’s travelin’ to
But Colorado’s always clean and healin’
And Tennessee in spring is green and cool
It never really was your kind of town
But you went around with the Fort Worth blues
Somewhere up beyond the great divide
Where the sky is wide and the clouds are few
A man can see his way clear to the light
Just hold on tight
That’s all you gotta do
And they say Texas weather’s always changin’
And one thing change’ll bring is somethin’ new
And Houston really ain’t that bad a town
So you hang around with the Fort Worth blues
There’s a full moon over Galway Bay tonight
Silver light over green and blue
And every place I travel through, I find
Some kinda sign that you’ve been through
But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
And London never fails to leave me blue
Paris never was my kinda town
So I walked around with the Fort Worth blues