PHILADELPHIA – There’s not much more a baseball fan could ask for than the show the Braves and Phillies put on in Sunday’s season opener. An eight-inning, two-hit, no walk shutout from the newly acquired Derek Lowe was supported by three home runs in the first two innings as the Braves took a 4-0 lead.
Not only did Atlanta light up Brett Myers for three early bombs, Jordan Schafer’s came in his first major league at bat.
One of two things would have made the evening complete: a complete-game shutout or a bottom of the ninth comeback.
The latter almost came to fruition when Braves reliever Mike Gonzalez stepped to the mound. The Phillies finally got on the board on Jayson Werth’s one-out RBI single, and Chase Utley drew a walk setting the table for a potential game-tying three-run homer for Ryan Howard. But instead of showing why he is looked upon as one of the league’s best power hitters, he proved his downside when he watched a fastball go right by him for the Phillies’ second out of the inning.
No need to worry. Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate.
Ibanez went down swinging and the defending World Series champs became the first team this season to boast a losing record.
Myers (0-1) was about as disappointing as one could hope to be. Through only six innings, he gave up eight hits, four runs, three homers, and his stuff was less than impressive. To his credit, he did look stronger as the game went on, but with the way Lowe was fooling the Phillies bats, Myers had virtually no support. Philadelphia managed only one hit while Myers was in the lineup.
There shouldn’t be much reason to worry this early. It’s only one game and Philadelphia (0-1) definitely has the stars to make another run.
But perhaps the most impressive part of Sunday’s season opener was Lowe’s performance.
Atlanta (1-0) has long been known for its powerful pitching staff and with good reason. Any incoming hurler has a lot to live up to with the names Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz staring down at them.
Lowe (1-0) was seemingly unaffected by the pressure. He was arguably the Dodgers’ most effective arm last season and proved the Braves management brilliant in his Atlanta debut.
Throughout the offseason, the Mets received all of the National League East glory from their winter-month acquisitions. If the Braves truly are as strong as Sunday’s performance, the East could be a tougher battle than initially expected.