Well, that was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? The Braves ended Spring Training with an 8-5 victory over the visiting Yankees as they inaugurated their new stadium, SunTrust Park, before a pumped-up Friday night crowd.
First things first — from the vantage point of a TV broadcast, the new stadium looks pretty swell. Everything came off as bright and modern, the center field camera is a gem, and the fans seemed to be happy availing themselves of both the game and the ballpark’s other features.
Bartolo Colon got the start for the Braves and got Brett Gardner to fly out for the first (unofficial) out at SunTrust Park. He then gave up the first (unofficial) hit at SunTrust Park to Gary Sanchez, but managed to get out of the frame without any damage despite also allowing a single to Greg Bird that caromed off of Freddie Freeman.
Nick Markakis got the first (unofficial) Braves hit in the park, with a one-out double off of Yankees starter Michael Pineda on the second. Markakis’ ball was one of more than a few that really seemed to jump on the night, and if tonight was an indication, the park may play up offensively, rather than being fairly neutral. We will definitely see as the season proceeds. In any case, the Braves stranded Markakis after both Brandon Phillips and Adonis Garcia lined out.
The Yankees got to Colon in the third, which proved to be his last inning of work. Gary Sanchez roped out a two-out double and Greg Bird drove him in with a sweet-swinged two-run homer that nestled cozily inside the right-field foul pole for the first (unofficial) round-tripper at STP. The Braves immediately responded: Tyler Flowers hit a soft tapper and reached base after Pineda was unable to get anything on his throw to first, and Dansby Swanson lined an opposite-field single to bring up Freddie Freeman. In accordance with his designated role as Atlanta Braves savior, Freeman obliterated a 1-0 pitch from Pineda into the right-center stands, and believe me, it was a no-doubter when it left the bat. Look for yourself.
That was all the Braves got in the inning, but they got the lead, so no complaints there. R.A. Dickey then came on in relief of Colon and stymied the Yankees with his knuckleball. The Braves had a great chance to extend their lead in the fifth after Inciarte hit a one-out double and then stole third base, but a walk to Dansby Swanson paid off when Freddie Freeman grounded into a tailor-made double play. He may have been safe on the throw to first, but it’s an exhibition game, so we won’t gnash our teeth too much.
The backups for both teams came out in full force after the game’s halfway point. In the sixth, the Yankees clawed back a short-lived lead off of Jose Ramirez, where a leadoff double, a walk, and then a double by Yankees prospect Dustin Fowler scored the tying and go-ahead runs. Ramirez was eventually pulled for Eric O’Flaherty, who hit the first batter he faced to load the bases with one out, but managed to retire two righties without giving up any additional runs.
The sixth was the big inning for the Braves, and they scored five runs with a furious and fortuitous two-out rally. After two singles and a walk loaded the bases, Kurt Suzuki hit a chopper that third baseman Michael Andujar couldn’t handle, scoring the first run. Emilio Bonifacio was then walked to tie the game, which set up Jace Peterson’s bases-clearing bloop double into a Bermuda triangle of Yankees fielders in shallow right center.
That was all the scoring aside from a Chris Carter homer off of Ian Krol in the seventh. Arodys Vizcaino and Jim Johnson pitched scoreless innings to close out the game. Freddie Freeman had the big blow, Brandon Phillips got two hits, and most importantly, the first game at SunTrust Park was a great success and the season is almost here!