|Opening Day festivities - SunTrust Park March 29, 2018|
The Atlanta Braves 2018 Opening Day feel had an optimistic feel to it to me, maybe a little more so than the past few years. The team has been in a long rebuild since stripping down and selling off a lot of their big league club, and starting to re-build the farm system. If the team was a stock market, their sell off was a large 'correction' that some might look at as a crash. We are starting to see small, yet significant signs of upward trending opportunity. The 2018 season will be made up with a mix of veterans infused with developing with young talent. We should see more big prospects hit the big league circuit as the season moves along, none more highly anticipated than five tool prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. It should be fun to watch this team hopefully continue to develop as the season goes along.
The first five innings of Opening Day 2018 for the Braves had all the make up off a pitchers duel. Both Julio Tehran and Aaron Nola respectively moved quickly through both opposing teams lineups through the first five innings. Julio ran into trouble in the six and gave way to the Braves bullpen. Rex Brothers came in and looked like he didn't belong in the big leagues. Brothers walked two batters, one of them to force in a run and did not record a out. Dan Winkler came in to try to stop the bleeding and gave up a two run single. When all was said and done the Phillips had put up a four spot in the inning to build a 5-0 lead.
In the Braves half of the 6th, Incirarte doubled with one out. The Phillies pulled Nola after only 68 pitches, which was very surprising to me based on how well he was pitching. The move payed off well for the Braves as Freeman would deposit a 2 run homer of Phillips reviler Miller intto the right field seats after the pitching change for their first two runs of the 2018 season.
Trailing by three entering the bottom of the 8th, young Ozzie Albies deposited a solo home-run into the left center field seats about four rows in front of where I was sitting. Ozzie is only 21, but I believe is a future star in the making and will be a cornerstone of this team for many years to come. He's probably my favorite player to watch on this team right now. Ozzie's home run continued the Braves come back spark and they would tie the game a few batters later thanks to a clutch Preston Tucker one out RBI single.
After a shaky sixth inning, the Braves bullpen settled in and held the Phillies scoreless from the 7th inning on. Entering the bottom of the ninth tied at five, the Braves had set themselves up for a potential opening day walk off win to remember. Charlie Culberson started the 9th with a infield single. After a Inciarte sacrifice but, the Phillies intentionally walked Freeman, electing to go after Nick Markakis. Markakis delivered a 1-1 offering from Phillies closer Hector Neris deep into the Atlanta night, hitting his frist career home run if walk off in dramatic fashion. The home run literally made it rain as the pending weather that had been threatening all night arrived no more than 15 minutes later with an intense down pour of rain.
With the win, the Braves secured their largest opening day comeback in franchise history. A 5-0 lead in baseball on any day of the schedule is hard to overcome, but to do it on Opening Day in walk off fashion is a fine feat. I think it shows some early character of this team and proves there could be a lot to look forward to in the 2018 season. While I think there will no doubt be some continued growing pains as the tail end of the rebuild nears, starting the year in such fashion gives me a sense of optimism that brighter days are ahead for Braves fans. 162-0 is still in sight for 2018.