The Atlanta Braves are entering the 2010-11 season with high expectations and have been predicted by ESPN the magazine and Sports Illustrated to win the wild card this season. These expectations wouldn't be the same without the 20 year old rookie in that of Jason Heyward. The Braves would look to get off to a winning note, as they took on the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day.
Jason Heyward and the Atlanta Braves put on an offensive showcase, as they beat the Cubs 16-5. Derek Lowe (1-0) pitched five innings and gave up five runs. While Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano (0-1) had a miserable outing, going 1.1 innings and gave up eight earned runs. Bobby Cox and the 53,000 fans at the ballpark couldn't have been any more pleased with the great performance.
However, the Braves started the game on a bad note as Derek Lowe gave up a three run shot to Marlon Bryd. Going into the bottom of the first the Cubs were up 3-0, but not for long.
The Braves quickly made up for Derek Lowes rough first inning, as they scored three quick runs off of Carlos Zambrano to tie the game up at 3-3. Zambrano's well known temper flared up quickly, especially since the Braves were getting all their hits off little bloopers which were finding a place to fall in the outfield.
However, the Braves 20 year old rookie, Jason Heyward, had other intentions. With runners on first and second, Heyward stepped up to the plate for his first at-bat of his career. Zambrano quickly busted two 94 m.p.h. fastballs in on the stocky 245 pound right fielder.
On the third pitch of the at-bat Heyward did what every rookie dreams of doing. Heyward sent Zambrano's pitch into the back of the Atlanta Braves bull-pen, which is 446 feet away from home plate. The fans went wild, as the home grown player who has been compared to Hank Aaron by Bobby Cox had just hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat of his career. Anyone who had doubted J-Hey's talent was now in awe.
Heyward would line out to Derek Lee in his second at-bat.
Heyward's three-run homer put the Braves up 6-3 and the slugfest would continue for the Braves in the next inning, as Brian McCann went deep of off Zambrano, ending his outing. It was definitely not his day today.
In the third inning the Cubs would get two runs back off of an Aramis Ramirez two-run homer, cutting the Braves lead to 8-5.
After scoring eight runs in the first two innings the Braves had no solution for Cubs releiver Sean Marshall, as he struck out five and retired all eight batters he faced in 2.2 innings of work.
In the sixth inning there was a very questionable play, when Braves center fielder Nate McLouth dove for a fly ball hit by Marlon Bryd. It was clear to see that the ball popped out of his glove and that he didn't catch it, but the umpires didn't get a good view on the play. The umpires mistake cost the Cubs, as the play resulted in two outs, as Aramis Ramirez was doubled up at first base.
The game remained at 8-5 until the bottom of the seventh inning. Cubs reliever Jeff Samardzija gave up a lead off walk to Chipper Jones. Jones then got a great jump from first base and stole second base with ease.
Samardzija would continue to struggle with his accuracy, as he walked the next two hitters as well, finding himself in a bases loaded jam with no outs and it didn't help to have the best hitter in the MLB with runners in scoring position up at the plate.
Yunel Escobar continued his great day as he roped a double into the left field gap clearing the bases, making the score 11-5. It was his second hit with runners in scoring position of the day. The inning would become even worse for the Cubs as Derek Lee overthrew Samardrdzija covering the base on Heyward's ground ball. Escobar would score on the play. Before the inning was over the Braves would add on two more runs to break the game completely open, as they were now up 14-5.
Takashi Saito made his Atlanta Braves debut in the eigth inning, retiring all three batters he faced with ease.
Jason Heyward would end his debut in a great way in the eighth inning. With runners on first and third and one out Heyward lined a single up the middle to put the score up to 15-5. Before the game came to a close the Braves would add one more run making the score 16-5.
Heyward didn't fail to please the third largest crowd in Braves history, of 53,000, as he went 2-for-5 with four RBI's. It will be a day Braves fans will remember for the rest of their lives and especially a day to remember for the young aspiring Heyward.
"Heyward had a remarkable game and it's going to be one he will remember for the rest of his life," said Braves manager Bobby Cox.
"I couldn't have dreamed this day out any better," said Heyward.
Heyward wasn't the only Brave to have a big day at the plate. Yunel Escobar went 2-for-5 with five RBI's, Brian McCann had a big day as well with two hits and a home run, and Martin Prado had two hits as well. The Braves finished with 12 hits and drew eight walks.
Not to mention Billy Wagner came on in the ninth inning and pitched lights out. Wagner struck out two of the three batters he faced.
This is a great way for the Braves to open up their 2010-11 campaign, as it has set a tone for the way they want the season to go. If the Braves can keep up the type of great play which they displayed in their season opener they will be sending Bobby Cox off on a great note, hopefully a World Series Title.
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