If the Braves were wondering if Derek Lowe's 4-year, $60m contract was going to be worth the money, they got a huge clue on Opening Day in Philadelphia. Lowe was simply magnificent, pitching eight shutout innings in a 4-1 Braves win over the World Champion Phillies.
The veteran journeyman gave up only two hits, striking out four over his eight-inning stint and quite simply silenced the majority of the 44,532 crowd - barring of course the customary chorus of boos. The Phillies had no answer to Lowe, who drew groundout after groundout. Their offence was only able to get going off Braves closer, Mike Gonzalez but by then it was too little, too late.
The Braves took the lead early. Chipper Jones lined his first at-bat of the season to left field and was followed by a middle-deck mammoth two-run shot from catcher, Brian McCann. From there the Braves never looked back. Jeff Francoeur siezed the initiative in the top of the second inning, sending Phillies starter, Brett Myers, deep into the left field seats off the first pitch he saw. This home run was quickly followed by one off the bat of Jordan Schafer. Schafer's first at-bat in the Major Leagues will be one he remember forever. Having worked the count in his favour, Schafer took Myers to the deepest part of the park and by that point, the game was over as a contest.
With Lowe's day over, Mike Gonzalez was sent in by Bobby Cox to finish the job. However, pinch-hitter Eric Bruntlett doubled, then scored on Jason Werth's one-out RBI. He then walked Chase Utley to bring up Ryan Howard in the form of the tying run. Nevertheless, Gonzalez struck out Howard, then Raul Ibanez to end the game and give the Braves the ideal start to the season.
"It's a great start for us," noted Jeff Francoeur. "We wanted to come out and do what we did tonight. You couldn't ask for anything more from Derek. Two hits in eight innings against this kind of team might happen two times a year at best."
Lowe too was satisfied with his outing, "It went about as good as possible for me", he noted.
The Braves now have an off-day to prepare to face the Phillies in Game 2, where Jair Jurrjens will face Phillies veteran, Jamie Moyer on Tuesday.
6th April 2009