After a year of uncertainty, we’re finally back in the ballpark and working on getting back to full capacity as the Braves announced not too long ago that they expanded their fan allowance to 50%. Today was a day that, honestly, deserves to be a national holiday. A day that is the equivalent of a second Christmas to baseball fans; today is Opening Day. And what a way to end it, too. How fitting is it that the Braves would end the first game of the season in extra innings?
Max Fried battled the Phillies lineup, keeping the Braves within two, on what was an average day for him — a sign of a true ace. After going down early, the Braves did find a spark from an unexpecting member of the team — a no-doubter in the later innings from Pablo Sandoval on an 0-2 count. That’s correct: Pablo Sandoval hit the first home run for the Braves this season, and it was beautiful.
— MLB (@MLB) April 1, 2021
While we wait for that to land, let me remind you how frequent the Braves take over the game in the later innings. They ranked 9th in all of baseball for runs in the 7th inning or later and proved repeatedly that they are not a team to let up on.
Counted out is something we were today, starting the season on the road in Philadelphia as betting underdogs. A dramatic past highlights the intense rivalry, which is cause for the disdained jeers of the limited fans in the stands. It was a hard-fought game, and there are many positives Braves’ fans can take away. Even though the Panda launched us into a tie, it wasn’t enough to hold off the embittered Phillies. After a long battle, the Phillies take Opening Day at home after an exciting finish in the bottom of the 10th, on the heels of the new runner on 2nd rule. So: what worked and what didn’t?
I’m going to be talking about this home run for months now. Sandoval, a late offseason acquisition following a late tenure with Atlanta, made the team on the last day of spring training and, apparently, is settling right in. Sandoval has always had a flair for the dramatic, as many of us know from his days on the World Champion San Fransisco Giants.
The image of him falling on his back following the final out is one that will live on in baseball history. Later in his career and on a mission for redemption, we see Sandoval suited up with Atlanta; and he fits right in. Sandoval, who is now 1.000 with 1 HR and 2 RBI, will continue to provide much-needed heroics off the bench for Atlanta as the season progresses.
How contradictory to my last point, huh? Well, it’s sadly true. Aside from Ronnie and Freddie’s few hits and outside of the Sandoval home run, the bats were quieter than most stadiums were in 2020. The wind didn’t exactly help, but the bat production was not where it needed to be on Opening Day.
Keeping in mind that the first game of the season allows for error, today’s bats shouldn’t be something to worry about. While the balls hit in play resulted in outs, they were hit harder than some home runs are hit. Austin Riley and Freddie Freeman both had outs that eclipsed the 100mph mark. Once the cobwebs are brushed off and those hard-hit balls are elevated, we’ll see more homers and extra-base hits instead of hard-hit-outs.
Now, we move on. There’s plenty of baseball left to be played, and today was just the beginning of the best part of the year: baseball season. Even though we couldn’t finish it out in extras, today was a fun one. Let’s do it again Saturday, as the series continues in Philadelphia at 4:05 PM. Zach Wheeler will take the bump for the Phillies while renewed-Brave Charlie Morton takes it for Atlanta.