Photo: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos
Well, the first series has come and gone for the Atlanta Braves. Safe to say it was not a pretty three games by any means and was quite the opposite of what fans were expecting and hoping for to kick off the 2021 campaign. The poor performance that resulted in a sweep to open the year is familiar, however, as in 2019, the Braves did exactly that vs the Phillies on the road. That season wrapped up with 97 wins and a division title, so let’s not overreact. But let’s not sugarcoat this either, the 2021 season is off to a slow start.
Major League Baseball began on Thursday with excitement and buzz for all thirty teams, as they all share a common goal for the 2021 season. After all, Opening Day is one of the best days of the year. The Atlanta Braves were slated to take on the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park with last year’s ace, Max Fried, facing off against Aaron Nola. The Phillies came out hot, putting up two runs through three innings and taking a 2-0 lead. After that, there would be three scoreless innings from both sides as Max Fried would finish his day with 94 pitches, going five innings, surrendering six hits and two earned runs while striking out eight. Aaron Nola, however, would remain in the game until an unlikely hero would tie the game up for Atlanta. In the top of the 7th, with the pitcher due up to bat, the Braves would bring out Pablo Sandoval to pinch-hit with a runner on. Sure enough, he delivered, blasting a two-run homer to tie the game, ending Aaron Nola’s day. Unfortunately, that would be the only scoring outburst for Atlanta as the Phillies would go on to walk it off on a single in the bottom of the 10th. The loss was accredited to Nate Jones, and the win was Connor Brogdon’s. Thursday’s player of the game for Atlanta was Pablo Sandoval, going 1-1 with 2 RBI’s on his home run, proving that he can provide valuable offense off the Braves bench this season.
Saturday was game two of the series, as Charlie Morton made his first start for the Atlanta Braves in thirteen years. Charlie pitched well, going five innings, giving up six hits and three earned runs on 76 pitches, with all three runs being surrendered in the 5th. Zack Wheeler, however, shined for the Phillies, completely incapacitating the Braves’ bats, allowing only one hit, and also providing 2 RBI’s at the plate. The Braves would lose 4-0, only having one baserunner all day. For me, the player of the game has to go to Charlie Morton, who had a very solid outing for his first start, suffering from a lack of run support.
On Sunday afternoon, the Braves were hoping to leave the city of brotherly love with a win and some momentum for our next series with the Washington Nationals. Yet again, the Phillies had other plans. Ian Anderson looked very good on the mound, only giving up one run through five innings. However, the Braves bats never found life other than Travis d’Arnaud’s first long ball of the year, which tied the game at one-all in the 7th. In the 8th, Alec Bohm would provide an RBI single for the Phillies that would lift them over the Braves 2-1, completing the three-game sweep. The player of the game for Atlanta was Travis d’Arnaud, thanks to his home run that provided the Braves with their only run of the day.
Overall, this was quite an ugly series that the Braves will look to put in the rearview mirror as they travel to Washington to take on the Nationals next. The series will begin on Tuesday and end with a two-game doubleheader on Wednesday, following Monday’s cancellation due to Covid protocols. The good news is, Braves fans, it can only get better from here.