ATLANTA - It was just as Atlanta Braves fans had hoped, and better than they could have imagined.
The first game in their new uniforms, and just as Chipper Jones had predicted, the new guys were a big hit with the Turner Field faithful.
After crumbling, 7-2, to the Braves before the largest regular-season crowd (51,638) in the stadium's brief history Monday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies will have to reconsider their scouting reports on the middle of Atlanta's lineup.
Gary Sheffield and Vinny Castilla hit home runs in the first five innings against Phillies starter Robert Person, Braves ace Tom Glavine allowed just five hits in 6 1/3 innings, and Philadelphia's Scott Rolen was charged with an error that fueled the game-winning rally as the Braves opened their 37th season in Atlanta by serving notice to last year's runners-up that things won't be any easier this year.
"These are the days when the nerves are working," said Sheffield, whose two-out, two-run home run in the fifth ran up the Braves' lead to six runs. "It's a dream come true to wear this uniform and hit a home run on opening day."
Glavine, making just his second opening day start since the dawn of the Greg Maddux era, delivered a superb performance in a stand-in role. He led 7-0 before yielding a home run to Travis Lee, and finished with seven strikeouts, matching last year's high.
"I'll take 34 more of these," said Glavine, who stepped in for Maddux, scratched with a strained hip. "It was one of those days when things were clicking."
Everything clanked for the Phillies.
Person, who may be the closest thing the Phillies have to an ace, lasted just five innings, a yield of six runs coming on just three hits now attached to a resume that reads "0-4, 5.51 ERA" in seven games at Turner Field.
Person came unhinged at the first whiff of trouble, when third baseman Rolen couldn't handle Sheffield's smash and was charged with an error with two out in the third. Castilla, whose return to the organization that nurtured him is cause for celebration in his native Mexico, followed by crushing a three-run home run on an 0 and 2 delivery to the delight of the third-largest crowd in Atlanta history.
Person preferred to give credit to Castilla, who didn't have a hit in three other trips, than dwell on his own shortcomings.
"I had Vinny two strikes and made the pitch I wanted - in," Person said. "I don't like tipping my hat to guys, but he hit the ball and he wasn't even extended. It just amazes me. I can't be mad at that. I came in and watched it on videotape about a dozen times and still can't figure out how he did it."
With the Phillies needing Person to stand tall, he buckled instead.
In the fifth, he issued a third straight walk to Jones, and Sheffield applied the body slam, driving a 1 and 0 fastball over the wall in left field to make it 6-0.
"You couldn't have written a script for newcomers to an organization any better than that," manager Bobby Cox said. "Gary Sheffield is every bit what he's supposed to be and Vinny is going to play a big role too."
While Glavine held the Phillies scoreless on three hits through six innings, the Braves toyed with the Philadelphia bullpen, stringing together two hits and shortstop Jimmy Rollins' error in the sixth for an extra run.
Every Atlanta player, with the exception of leadoff man Rafael Furcal and catcher Javy Lopez, had a hit or scored a run in a game that was more lopsided than the score indicated.
"If Gary and Vinny can play like they did today, they're going to have some big numbers," Jones said. "Nobody is really surprised because those guys are capable of doing it at any time. Their juices were flowing a little bit today."
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us