As Spring Training 2009 draws to a close, the Braves find themselves in something of a "Tiger-fest", playing the Detroit Tigers five times in just over a week. Quite what five games against one team in quick succession is meant to prove is known only by the schedule-makers, but at least the visit of the Boston Red Sox, Monday, could provide both a little variety and a stern test of the young Braves team.
Behind a solid effort from Kenshin Kawakami, the Braves fought hard for a 4-3 victory, thoroughly deserved after a week of great performances with little reward. Kawakami went six innings, giving up only a two-run homer from Rocco Baldelli on four hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. Already the Japanese hurler is establishing himself as a fan-favourite, and with him slated to be the fourth starter in the rotation, gives a great deal of confidence to the fans in its depth.
It does seem that Major League Baseball's influx of Japanese players has improved the standard of the game. Once seen as a nation that could not compete with the power of the USA, Japan are the literal World Champions and dominating the Major Leagues. Kawakami's opponent today was Daisuke Matsuzaka, who went five innings for one earned run on two hits. Both pitchers have ERAs under 2.00 for this Spring.
Offensively, the Braves got to see what Garret Anderson can do as the veteran picked up two hits and an RBI in just his second game since March 6th, having picked up a calf injury. The win itself came in extra innings when Brooks Conrad delivered a walk-off double in the 10th inning off Red Sox reliever Bryson Cox.
The win will boost the team's morale as they enter the final stretch of Spring. Only five games remain, three versus the Tigers and two against the Houston Astros, the first beginning tomorrow at 7:05pm.
30th March 2009