Pickens County Progress Sports Columnist Tommy Gartrell
By Tommy Gartrell
One week into the professional baseball season, we have seen a bit of everything including near Yu Darvish’s “almost perfect” game in Texas, Sandy Koufax’s return to Dodger Stadium and thunder and lightning in Atlanta. Where do the Braves stand? How is the Atlanta-Arizona trade looking thus far?
Through the first seven days of action, no team in Major League Baseball is unbeaten, and no team is winless. No one has clinched the pennant, but the Marlins, Astros, Pirates and Padres have surely lost it. With only one victory and five losses each, their fans can already start looking forward to next year.
In the “Biggest City in the South,” baseball is not the only game in town. However, the NCAA Basketball Championship is over (my congratulations go to the Louisville Cardinals!), and soon the slow, lazy and boring Hawks will mercifully depart from the court and our televisions. Do you remember when the Braves stunk and the Hawks were awesome? I do! It was during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations though, but I digress.
Right now the Braves are in first place. Have you seen any of the games? You should watch this team. They have theses two brothers named Upton, and they can play baseball. The eldest brother B.J. started slowly with the bat, but younger brother Justin hit six home runs in the first seven games. He started with a 460 foot shot in the season opener at home and added the sixth homer on Monday night in the middle of a four hit performance in Miami. In fact, both of these home run balls may have landed somewhere on Peachtree Street.
In between these two hits, the brothers Upton provided game- tying and game-winning home runs in the same inning on Saturday night. Their bottom of the ninth heroics gave Atlanta a 6-5 walk off win versus the Chicago Cubs. Please, tell me that you did not go to bed after the seventh inning with Atlanta trailing 5-1.
Don’t get me wrong, the Braves are much more than two players. The pitching staff is averaging just a hair over two runs surrendered per game. Despite several key players on the disabled list including first baseman Freddie Freeman, relief pitcher Jonny Venters, starting pitcher Brandon Beachy, shortstop Paul Janish and catcher Brian McCann, the team is winning games. Atlanta leads the NL East with a 5-1 record through the first week (6-1 through Monday night).
The big off-season trade with Arizona looks like a winner for both teams so far. The Diamondbacks lead the NL West with the same record as the Braves. Justin Upton (14) and Chris Johnson (2) are responsible for 16 of Atlanta’s runs, while Martin Prado which is the only player involved in the trade who made the Diamondback’s major league roster has accounted for twelve of Arizona’s runs in the first week of play.
How good are the Braves? Well, they have yet to play any real contenders. Beating up on the Phillies, Cubs and Marlins hardly proves their true worth, but a three game series in Washington this weekend should provide everyone a better indication of the quality of both the Braves and Nationals. If opposing pitchers keep throwing the baseball down and in to Justin Upton, he should have 10 or 12 home runs by this time next week though.