Derek Lowe began his career with the Atlanta Braves by proving that he is indeed an ace on the mound. Lowe held the defending World Series Champion Phillies scoreless through 8 innings of 2-hit ball. He had the slider working, getting 13 ground outs against 7 fly balls and 4 strikeouts. Lowe was in total command on the mound, as the Phillies batters looked completely fooled.
The Braves got off to a good start in the batters box with a mammoth 2-out, 2-run homerun from Brian McCann in the first inning. Jeff Francoeur opened up the second inning with laser-shot homerun on the first pitch. But the real offensive star of the night for Atlanta was the rookie Jordan Schafer. The new Braves center fielder became the first Braves rookie to hit a homerun in his first major league at-bat since Jermaine Dye in 1996. Schafer followed that up with a single in his second at-bat, and was intentionally walked in his third plate appearance, before striking out against the Phillies closer in his final plate appearance. Overall it was a great debut for the young rookie who we expect so much out of this year.
While the Braves were able to put 4 runs and 8 hits on the board, they did strike out 10 times, and only collected an intentional walk. They used an aggressive approach at the plate, which served them well with the early homeruns, but failed them when they got several runners on base in the middle innings.
Closer Mike Gonzalez in a non-save situation made the ninth inning interesting by allowing 2 hits and a walk before striking out Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez to end the game. He did spoil the shutout by allowing one run. It seemed like an odd move to bring in the lefty closer to face three right-handers to lead off the inning. It would have made more sense to put Soriano in that position, reserving Gonzalez for the lefties in the middle of the order.
But a win's a win. Off-day on Monday, and then Jair Jurrjens takes the mound on Tuesday.