Braves continue their flair for dramatic in win over Phillies

Nate McLouth, Martin Prado and Freddie Freeman line up for high-fives after scoring Chipper Jones' double in the fourth inning. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Nate McLouth, Martin Prado and Freddie Freeman all line up for high-fives after scoring on Chipper Jones' fourth-inning double, which gave Braves a 6-3 lead. (Jason Getz/AJC)

(UPDATED: 11:20 p.m.)

Last year, they excelled at doing things the hard way. Not with stars, but with duct tape. Not with stability, but with an ever-mutating lineup. Not with logic, but with desire, heart and mojo.

The Braves returned to Turner Field for the first time this season Friday night against Philadelphia, a team that for the last four seasons has owned the National League East, a division the Braves once treated as their own Barcalounger. This team is more talented and certainly healthier than the one that was dropping engine parts down the stretch a year ago. But that whole concept of scrapping and doing things the hard way may be a difficult identity to let go of.

With their offense struggling through most of a 3-4 start, the Braves chose an unusual path to give their fans an early-season sigh of relief. They spotted Cliff Lee, this past winter’s major acquisition, a 3-0 lead, and then chased the former Cy Young winner with six runs and 10 hits by the fourth inning, winning 6-3 before a sellout crowd.

“That’s not exactly how you draw up,” said Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, who allowed three runs in the first two innings, then blanked the Phillies in the next 5 2/3 before coming out in the eighth. “Usually when you give somebody the caliber of Cliff Lee an early three-run lead, it’s lights out.”

Drama and implausible storylines defined the Braves in 2010. Why should this season by any different?

“That’s not going to change,” Chipper Jones said. “The bulk of the club from last year is still here. We have some new faces but I still believe this team, no matter where we are in the lineup at a given point, somebody is going to step up with a big hit.”

On this night, it was Jones. He had two meek ground outs in his first two at-bats, both with men on.

“I’m sitting over in the dugout and I’m thinking how disappointed I am,” he said later. “But I also thought that at some point I was going to have a big at-bat in this ballgame. I’ll be darned if it didn’t happen.”

With the Braves having scored three times in the second inning to tie it, Jones came to the plate in the fourth with the bases loaded. He crushed a drive to center field that went off the glove of the backtracking Shane Victorino and fell for a three-run double.

Somewhere in the owner’s box, a 69-year-old former manager probably yelled, “Way to go, kid!”

That would be Bobby Cox. The Braves’ retired manager watched the game from the owners’ box with, among others, President Jimmy Carter. It was a good seat, but not the closest Cox has ever sat for a game.

Earlier, he was on the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch — to Fredi Gonzalez, of course. It was one of those passing-of-the-torch things.

The pitch appeared to be a ball, low and inside to right-handed hitter. Cox opted not to argue. It would’ve been bad form for even him to get tossed on a ceremonial pitch.

Coming off their first playoff season in five years, the Braves decided pomp and circumstance were in order for the home opener. They unveiled a pennant that commemorated the wild-card berth (the crowd didn’t seem too caught up in the moment). They had all of the players enter the field through a door in center field, amid fireworks, balloons and music. Then the Phillies quieted the house quickly.

Coming off three consecutive losses in Milwaukee might not hold a lot of significance in April, but it didn’t create much in the way of positive foreshadowing for the Phillies series.

The biggest concern was the offense. The Braves scored 24 runs in their first seven games, which isn’t awful until you realize 11 of those came in one day at Washington. Simple math: They scored only 13 in the other six games, and entered the night with a team batting average of .226.

Then came the start to this one: The Phillies had a 3-0 lead after two innings against Hudson. Handing early 3-0 leads to Lee generally isn’t the formula for success. But Hudson settled down after that, and Lee turned out not to be a problem. The Braves chased him with three runs in the second and three in the fourth. They dented him with 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings, including three doubles and a triple, the biggest hit by Jones.

Jones later was given a standing ovation after leading off the sixth inning with a single, the 2,500th hit of his career.

At first base, the Phillies’ Ryan Howard turned to Jones and said, “Man, that’s a lot of hits.” Jones laughed.

The rest was up to Hudson and the bullpen.

Much like Cox’s last team, Gonzalez’s first one with the Braves didn’t do things by the book Friday  night. But that’s not a bad thing.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

52 comments Add your comment

Johnnie Dollar

April 8th, 2011
10:53 pm

Thisa is stupid but….First

Johnnie Dollar

April 8th, 2011
10:54 pm

Nice to see the Braves bats wake up against an ace.

Miles

April 8th, 2011
10:56 pm

Miles

April 8th, 2011
10:56 pm

Uggla needs to get going

mwh6767

April 8th, 2011
10:57 pm

Good win but we got a looooong way to go.

shadetree

April 8th, 2011
10:58 pm

14 minutes to get a first. WOW

Ralph

April 8th, 2011
10:58 pm

Way to go Kids.

AlabamaRamblinwreck

April 8th, 2011
11:21 pm

Uggla over swings
And he is a strikeout machine

Hope he proves me wrong.

An Adult

April 8th, 2011
11:30 pm

Uggla is a notorious slow starter … year after year…. look at that stats. He’s actually hotter now or as hot, than in the past

MS. State Bulldog

April 8th, 2011
11:30 pm

Great night. Braves win and MS. State defeats the almighty Florida Gators!!

Reid Adair

April 8th, 2011
11:31 pm

What a great game for the Braves in their home opener. I’d like to see Dan Uggla get going because Nate McLouth getting two hits was a fluke.

brian

April 8th, 2011
11:31 pm

where is that retarted loser joe tess? i swear it must suck to be dyslexic and slow.

Remarkable

April 8th, 2011
11:33 pm

This is just the first of many home wins. This place will Rock this year. Uggla will prove you wrong. He will get lots of chances to hit behind Chipper and the others. Just stay healthy Chipper.

JSS

April 8th, 2011
11:33 pm

Leave Uggla alone, he’ll get started in time… Take the win and get off the Acapulco Cliffs…

big o

April 8th, 2011
11:38 pm

Enter your comments here

big o

April 8th, 2011
11:41 pm

Great win !! Uggla is a slow starter but I think he needs to try and go to right field and not try for the homer on every at bat like A Jones use too

Austin

April 8th, 2011
11:43 pm

The Braves need to find a way to get Omar Infate back he did everything for us last year

Joe Tess Fish House

April 8th, 2011
11:53 pm

They still have a loosing record……Because they hired a managar with a loosing record. His mess is wearing off on this team

Kimbrel

April 8th, 2011
11:56 pm

FEAR THE PEACH FUZZ!!!!

bfred

April 9th, 2011
12:10 am

Joe, the don’t have a “loosing” record, you halfwit. .500

Erik

April 9th, 2011
12:38 am

Six runs off Cliff Lee and beat those Philties…I’ll take it any day!! GO BRAVES!!!

Gravy Train

April 9th, 2011
3:06 am

It was great seeing Chipper get that triple to plate three runs, but then he also hit his 2,500th ball. Look at that number, JS. 2,500 is Cooperstown material. Chipper will retire as the best switch hitter that ever played the game. That is his stated goal. True champs always have a run in reserve. Stay with the new swing, Chipper..

Gravy Train

April 9th, 2011
3:08 am

It was great watching Nate make you have to eat your words, Mr. Schultz.

Ted M

April 9th, 2011
3:51 am

Uggla’s April average is close to his career average.

pete gunn

April 9th, 2011
5:28 am

Gravy Train, Chipper is going to have to really excel to beat out Eddie Murray’s 3000+hits and 500+ homeruns as a switch hitter.

jp

April 9th, 2011
6:14 am

Can’t wait to see the Braves in action this year. Can anyone tell me what they did in the 9th inning for Kimbrel’s entrance?

G

April 9th, 2011
6:33 am

Enter your comments here

GT71

April 9th, 2011
6:40 am

Please lay off McLouth. He’s doing well so far and he’s got to be a bit fragile – well, as fragile as a MLB plater can get. And Uggla – he too is notorious for slow (and even awful) starts. The team is deeper than last yer, the pitching should be better and so far the defense hasn’t embarrassed anyone.
Everything in baseball is a cliche, but it IS a marathon.
Braves: Stay healthy, stay clean and September will find us playing games that matter.
Oh, yeah – beat the stuffing out of the Phils again today.

GaDawg

April 9th, 2011
7:25 am

Sat in Section 101 row 9 behind home plate….was more amused at all the “old guys” with young blonde dates in the Sun Trust section. Seriously! Forget LA or NY…great viewing! And the ex wives can see the new trophy wives or girlfriends on tv! also…really people in the SunTrust seats….stop treating the ushers like they are your full time help! All the back slapping and hugging is SO Fake! You know you don’t mean it! The viewing of the preening was almost as good as the game.
Oh ya….Huddy was great and Uggla has only one swing…for the fences. Great game and the viewing was sublime!

Larry

April 9th, 2011
7:30 am

A few thoughts to kick off this weekend…

1. Nate McLouth deserves our praise, not the constant juvenile ridicule. The kid is swinging it pretty good and always hustles out every at bat to first base. He should be batting in the 1st or 8th hole that is more suited for his skills. What type of person pulls against a good teammate that tries his very best?

2. Prado is a hitting machine and another great person that hustles out every ground ball.

3. Uggla will be OK and also runs at top speed to first on easy-out ground balls. Refreshing.

4. Chipper, even if he plays 140 games (he won’t) will hit no more than 15 HR’s this year. I see a noticeable loss of bat speed that has now become gap power, not HR power. (Gravy Train, ever hear of Mickey Mantle?).

5. Hanson is now our weakest link in the starting rotation. His losing record the past two seasons is NOT a fluke excused by the lack of run support; his losing record is directly related to losing 4-5 MPH off his straight ad very hittable fastball. Jurrjens is not far behind him and if either Lowe returns to pre September 2010 form or he or Hudson get hurt we are in deep doo doo!

6. Our bullpen is absolutely the best in the NL if not the game. We have two closer quality pitchers in Venters and Kimbrel that may be as formidable as the Yankees 1996 duo of John Wetteland and Mariano Riveria.

7. Lastly, last night’s game was inspiring for me. Coming off a three game losing streak to face the talented Phillies, getting down three runs in two innings to Cliff Lee, and then fighting back the way they did was a testament, I believe, to some good bench leadership and hustle. The way Prado, McLouth, Uggla, and Freeman run hard to first base rubs off on the entire bench. This coupled with the leadership of a McCann if fun to watch. More than I have seen in recent years, this team just seems to run and play a little harder and I think this is attributed to their new manager, Gonzalez, who practiced and emphasized more in Spring Training the basic fundamentals. Having several players (Prado, McCann, Jurrjens, Moylan, etc) come into ST in the best shape of their careers is a testament to their leadership and attitude.

Now if we can only teach Hudson how to bunt…LOL!

tim

April 9th, 2011
8:00 am

Jones hit to center field was scored as a “hit”….Did Larry buy the scorer some pork rinds before the game??

gilldainmemphis

April 9th, 2011
8:27 am

Missed the whole game.
Where in the world was the FSS broadcast in Memphis !?!? Some kind of junk basketball and a couple of sleazy looking boxing matches took up the timeslot for this game yesterday. Where was the Braves broadcast in Memphis?

GTT

April 9th, 2011
8:39 am

Jerrell is obsessed with these Acapulco cliffs lately.

Oh my Hanson!

April 9th, 2011
9:00 am

I agree with the Hanson comment! The home runs are getting old and he has not lived up to the hype in my opinion. He can’t continue to give up the long ball with regularity. Jason Heyward continues to excite my son. Go Braves!

Ekim

April 9th, 2011
9:26 am

@gilldainmemphis: It wasn’t on Fox SportSouth, it was on Peachtree TV. I experienced the same pain you did last night when I found that in the past year, Peachtree TV has been dropped by my cable company. This is awful. It’s going to happen a LOT this year. I seem to remember that many of the weeknight games were on this “network” last year.

Buckeye

April 9th, 2011
9:36 am

Chipper needs to shave. He looks like the led singer from Metallica.

TommyJack

April 9th, 2011
9:47 am

Does any major leaguer spit better than A. Gonzalez?

Coop

April 9th, 2011
10:30 am

jp, nothing was done for Kimbrel’s entrance. Guess the kid has to earn a few more saves to get the Wagner/Smoltzie treatment.

Coop

April 9th, 2011
10:32 am

Kimbrel threw my daughter a ball during batting practice so he’s already up there with Wagner/Smoltzie in our book!

Dylan

April 9th, 2011
10:58 am

Jp they did nothing. They had a fan interaction. He just ran in! I wanted them to play music. It didn’t effect him though!

wildbill

April 9th, 2011
11:23 am

BUNTING!!!!! Not since Rick Camp have the Braves improved? Tim Hudson is the latest pitcher who CAN NOT BUNT? What did he do at spring practice? Little league players have better form. PRACTICE Tim, PRACTICE BUNTING!

idot

April 9th, 2011
11:24 am

Last night’s game was on FoxSportsSouth on my cable, I,m in Savannnah and have Comcast.

idot

April 9th, 2011
11:27 am

McLouth has a six game hitting streak, with two hits in last night’s game, and still gets badmouthed by a couple of belly-achers on this rag.

idot

April 9th, 2011
11:30 am

Hanson pitched some pretty good games last year, and did not get much support from his offense, in a lot of those games.
Did you watch any of the games last year?
Some people just need something to complain about.

idot

April 9th, 2011
11:31 am

Where are the Phillies fans today?

Chief

April 9th, 2011
11:47 am

Chief Fans! Please join our Chief fan page, created with Chief’s permission, on Facebook! LIKE Chief’s fan page today!

http://www.facebook.com/BravesChief

jim

April 9th, 2011
12:48 pm

The loss of velocity for Hanson is something to be concerned about, but what cost him Thursday was his inability to hold runners on base. The Braun HR may have been as much a product of his concern about holding Gomez close as any lack of velocity. Braun hit a hanging curve. The third run was manufactured by a steal of third base (without a throw). Anytime there are baserunner, the other team will likely run, and it is playing with Hanson’s head.

Spanish Mackerel

April 9th, 2011
2:25 pm

McOut sucks !

Spanish Mackerel

April 9th, 2011
2:27 pm

dumass jim, Hanson himself said his slider was the reason for his struggles. But you know more than Hanson does.

Spanish Mackerel

April 9th, 2011
2:29 pm

Larry, lay off the Meth man. Your generic list is laughable.