|Batter||Team (B)||Inning||Pitcher||Team (P)||Situation|
|Brian McCann (1)||Atlanta Braves||1st||Brett Myers (1)||Philadelphia Phillies||1 on, 2 out|
|Jeff Francoeur (1)||Atlanta Braves||2nd||Brett Myers (2)||Philadelphia Phillies||0 on, 0 out|
|Jordan Schafer (1)||Atlanta Braves||2nd||Brett Myers (3)||Philadelphia Phillies||0 on, 1 out|
Homer of the Day is BACK!
It's back, guys! I am not just talking about the discussions of baseball since the 2009 regular season games have started, and I am not just talking about the return of the great (soon to be legend) Tyrone Briggs. Although those are two very great moments, there is still one more thing left: the HOMER OF THE DAY!
For those of who are new to the site or are unaware of the "Homer of the Day" series, the purpose of these articles is to basically keep you guys updated with all of the home runs that were hit on the previous day. Think of it as a journal of all of the home runs that were hit. I will give at least one game recap each day; if I have enough time, and if there was more than one great game played involving a home run. And the best part is... at the end (in the comment section), you, the readers, get to vote for who deserves to be the winner of the Homer of the Day for that day. You can give your opinions in regard to the article, who should've won the Homer of the Day the previous day, or just anything related to recent baseball.
Now, away we go with the first Homer of the Day article for 2009.
e Quality Start
All of us have been waiting for over five of the longest months ever, and Phillies fans tailgated at Citizens Bank Park and sat (or stood) in the stands for hours for this day: the first pitch of the 2009 Major League Baseball season. After what was a very memorable hour-long opening ceremony for Phillies fans, the fighting Phils took the field to take on another NL East competitor in the Atlanta Braves. Brett Myers would do the honors of throwing the first pitch and starting for the defending World Series champions, while off-season acquisition and highly regarded "think sink" Derek Lowe would start for the Braves. This is quite the matchup not only because it was the first game of the season, but also because of the fact that we have a pitcher who is one of the best pitchers in the game in terms of giving up home runs in Derek Lowe (.597 HR/9 IP) facing a pitcher who had a pretty tough time not surrendering home runs last season (29 homers surrendered, good for 6th worst in the National League).
Myers definitely has something to prove, as this is the final year of his $25.75 million deal with the Phillies. Coming off a season that started with really low low games and ended up with some really high high games, Myers definitely had something to prove to the Philly crowd and the organization. However, you could tell from the get go that this was not going to be Myers' best day on the mound. He was able to get the first two batters out, but struggled early on in the matchup. He lost a perfect first inning when slugging third baseman Chipper Jones singled to the opposite field. Brian McCann, the reigning Silver Slugger award winning catcher, was next up. There is a reason why he won the Silver Slugger award last year and in 2006: he can crush the ball. On the third pitch of his first at-bat of the season, Myers threw a mistake pitch (a change-up right high in the strike zone), and McCann took advantage of the opportunity and hit the ball that landed in the second deck. It was 2-0 in the Braves' favor, but there was still a lot of baseball that needed to be played.
After one-two-three inning for Lowe in the first inning, the Braves were ready to keep hitting hard against Myers. The tribe managed to get two more runs in thanks to a couple of solo home runs by Jeff Francoeur and a rookie who is well known now for hitting the first home run of his career in his first at-bat since Mark Saccomanno of the Houston Astros on September 8th of last year: his name is Jordan Schafer. It is pretty ironic that the last time a Braves player hit a home run in his first game was the man who hit a solo jack two batters before he was up in Jeff Francoeur.
"I definitely didn't expect all of that to happen," Schafer said. "I don't even think my feet hit the ground as I was running around the bases. I felt like I was floating. It was awesome."
Brett Myers allowed those 4 runs (all via the three home runs he surrendered) along with 8 hits in 6 innings. "I made three mistakes and they didn't miss them," Myers said. "Sometimes they pop those up. Not in this case. Give them credit."
Those 4 runs were more than enough than what Derek Lowe needed that day. If Lowe's start was any more dominant, Lowe could've possibly ended up with a perfect game. His sinker worked like a charm, he struck out 4 batters, and surrendered a mere two hits through 8 innings in less than 100 pitches. The only hits the Phillies had through the 8 innings Lowe pitched were a ground rule double by catcher Carlos Ruiz and a single by leadoff hitter and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Ryan Howard struck out twice, and even guys like Chase Utley and Jayson Werth couldn't start a rally against what looks to be either a new and improved Derek Lowe or just a pitcher who brought his A game against the defending champs.
"Derek Lowe's a tough guy to hit. He was on his game," Howard said. "He's a ground ball pitcher. I don't know if he has a magnet in there to keep it down or whatever. Give him credit."
"He had great stuff," Brian McCann said. "It's a lot better to catch him than hit against him."
Braves' manager Bobby Cox had some thoughts as well: "He was awesome. He really knows how to pitch."
As for his thoughts on his pitching: "My last three Opening Day starts were awful, and I knew this was going to be a big challenge coming in here with the Phillies coming off a world championship, and with this being an extremely tough park to play in," Lowe said. "But it went about as good as possible for me."
It seems to me that the Braves’ roster is happy to have him and Lowe feels like he’s a good fit for their team. Is he worth the $15 million/year? We'll find out sooner or later…
Things got a little more interesting in the 9th inning. Although the Phillies were down by 4, they wouldn’t disappoint the Phillies' fans, as they went down fighting. Derek Lowe was not able to finish the game, as Bobby Cox pulled him out so that a well known decent pinch hitter in Greg Norton could replace him. After all, three outs couldn’t be that hard... or could it? Reliever Mike Gonzalez replaced Derek Lowe on the mound, and he was facing pinch hitter Eric Bruntlett, Jimmy Rollins, and Jayson Werth. Bruntlett didn't show any signs of quitting, as he hit a double to left field. Rollins then hit a sacrifice fly far enough to send Bruntlett over to third. Jayson Werth then scored the first run for the Phils, as he was able to hit a single sharply over to left field to score Bruntlett. The Braves bench was obviously getting a little more nervous, as they knew that there was only one out and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard (two of the most dangerous hitters in the game today) were due. Utley patiently waited for a pitch to hit, but ended up trotting to first base to put more pressure on Gonzalez. This brought up the big man: Ryan Howard (the strikeout king, might I add). I’ll give you three guesses as to what happened… NO! He didn't hit a game-tying home run. He was called out on strikes, as he looked at a 93 mile per hour fastball fly right by him, hitting the outside corner. Howard had nothing to show for his last at-bat, and had to sit back down on the bench. So, with 2 outs, next up was the Phillies replacement of Pat Burrell: Raul Ibanez. At first, Ibanez waited for a good pitch to hit, and it worked in his favor with the count being 3-1 at one point. However, Mike Gonzalez battled back with another strike to make it a full count, and eventually got Ibanez to whiff to end the ballgame. So in what was an epic performance by Lowe turned out to be a very, close game in the end. However, the Braves still pulled off the victory, and that’s all that matters in the end.
On Another Note:
For those Philly fans out there who keep track of the little things, this was the fourth straight loss for the Phils on Opening Day, and their seventh out of eight.
For those of you who are curious about Derek Lowe's previous three Opening Day starts, he was 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA.
Chipper Jones has started in [a club record] 14 straight games for the Braves. But here’s a little something not many of you may know: during the first inning of his Major League debut, Barry Bonds (sorry I had to bring him up) hit an infield pop fly. Jones ran across the diamond all the way to the first base line, but on his way, the [then] rookie found himself colliding with Greg Maddux, causing the Braves ace to find his flip-down glasses in his mouth! Fred McGriff ended up made the catch, but it’s still funny to think about. "I've never been cussed [at] like I was that day," Jones said. "I thought he was going to run me out of the dugout. That was one of my more memorable Doggie [Maddux] moments."
Rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer became the fifth Braves player to homer in his first at-bat since Jermaine Dye in 1996. It was also the first time a batter hit his first home run in his first Major League at-bat since ("everyone’s favorite") Elijah Dukes two seasons ago. Schafer also became the 99th Major League Baseball player to go deep in his first at-bat.
NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson presented a Phillies jersey that he wore in space to Manuel before the game. I thought that was pretty cool when I heard about that.
I hope you guys liked the first Homer of the Day article for the 2009 baseball season. There will be plenty more articles to come, for sure. Hopefully, one every day (if I'm not too busy). Anyways, feel free to share your thoughts about the article, what happened today/tonight, and...
DON'T forget to add your votes for who you think should win the Homer of the Day... every vote counts!!!! (Vote before midnight, April 8, 2009).
Thank you, and I hope we have a great rest of the season.