Can’t watch the Braves-Mets spring training opener because you don’t have local New York stations? No worries, I am camped in front of my television all afternoon and will be transcribing the events, grossly overreacting to every pitch, and most importantly, laughing at Keith Hernandez’s jokes on your behalf.
First pitch is just minutes away …
1:09- Starting lineup for the Braves:
- DH Jordan Schafer
- CF Nate McLouth
- RF Jason Heyward
- C Brian McCann
- LF Eric Hinske
- 1B Freddie Freeman
- 2B Brooks Conrad
- 3B Brandon Hicks
- SS Diory Hernandez
1:10- Jordan Schafer at the plate. Schaf is rocking jersey number 1 this year. He’s down on strikes. Caught looking at a really filthy 3-2 curveball from Jenrry Mehia.
1:15- Nate Dog works a five pitch walk, bringing up Jason Heyward, prompting a discussion of last year’s Rookie of the Year voting. I still contend Heyward was robbed, but then I remembered the ROY is rather pointless in the grand scheme of things. Who would you rather have on your team, Chipper Jones or Hideo Nomo? Yeah, thought so.
1:18- The newer, slimmer, Brian McCann hits after Jason Heyward bounces out to short (McLouth was moving on the pitch and advanced). Keith Hernandez on McCann’s noticeable weight loss: “He’s always been kind of, well, you know … portly.”
1:21- McCann 2.0 grounds out to 2nd on a 3-1 count, ending the half-inning.
1:22- Lineup for the Mets:
- SS Jose Reyes
- 2B Luis Castillo
- 3B David Wright
- CF Angel Pagan
- LF Jason Bay
- 1B Ike Davis
- C Josh Thole
- Scott Hairston
- RF Fernando Martinez
1:26- Jair Jurrjens started the game with eight fastballs in his first nine pitches. The velocities for those fastballs: 83, 83, 82, 83, 82, 82, 81 … Yikes.
1:31- Angel Pagan hits a soft grounder to Brooks Conrad, and Conrad commits three errors on the play, retroactively costing the Braves the ’95 World Series. Just kidding. End of 1st, no score. One hit, no errors, one left on for New York.
1:36- David Wright robs Hinske of extra bases with a nice backhanded stab and throw to first. Freddie Freeman time, I’m giddy.
1:37- Freeman scorches a low fastball to right field. An error on the throw back to the infield gets him to third. Giddiness levels, rising. Brooks Conrad, now rocking the number 7, down on strikes, reaching on a fastball out of the zone.
1:40- Wild pitch brings Freeman home. Braves 1, Mets 0.
1:41- Mejia rings up Hicks, who is also rocking new digits, inheriting Matt Diaz’s old 23. Lots of new jersey numbers this year, fellow geeks. End of the top half of the 2nd.
1:48- Jurrjens gets out of the 2nd rather easily, surrendering only a soft single to Josh Thole.
1:53- Diory Hernandez and Jordan Schafer make for a quick two outs … File this under “least surprising sentences I’ve ever typed.”
1:55- Nate Dog completes the soft ground out trifecta by rolling over a breaking ball and lightly tapping it to the right side. Strong half inning, boys. Strong.
1:58- Jonny Venters pitching now for the Braves. Final line for Jurrjens: 2 IP, 1 K, 2 H, 34 pitches, 23 strikes.
1:59- Disgusting slider from Venters induces a Fernando Martinez strike out. It’s almost unfair seeing JV face off against lefty hitters.
2:01- Ron Darling on Jose Reyes: “He does things that most guys can’t do in a 162 game season.” That’d be the first time I’ve heard “Jose Reyes” and “162 games” in the same sentence.
2:02- Double play ball to end the inning. Excellent inning of work by Venters: Three batters faced, one strikeout, no balls hit out of the infield.
2:05- Jason Heyward squeezes a base hit through the right side of the infield. McCann 2.0 up with nobody out. He really does look like a different guy out there, like the new “slim” PlayStation3 model.
2:07- After a GIDP by McCann 2.0, Eric Hinske homers off the first pitch he sees. Braves up 2-0 now.
2:10- Freeman dumps a bloop double just inside the left field line. He’s on pace to hit 5,000 doubles this spring. Brooksie grounds out to end the top half.
2:17- Eric O’Flaherty now pitching. After a quick two outs he got himself into some trouble, surrendering single and issuing a walk, before getting out of the inning with a Josh Thole grounder to 2nd. Good to see Conrad’s case of they yips is cured – he only bobbled it once before throwing to 1st.
2:29- A tradition of spring training, the Mets’ starting position players who are no longer in the game are shown doing their post-game run. Meanwhile, Jonny Venters is getting his post-game run done on the warning track. Reminds me of my days in the Atlanta Public Schools baseball league. Crim High had a track running directly through center field, so it was not uncommon to see an old lady in a nylon track suit power walking across the field during the game.
2:31- Pinch-running for the Braves, Jose Constanza. Of course, Seinfeld jokes abound from the Mets’ booth. I’m pulling for Constanza to make the team for this same reason.
2:33- Heyward, presumably in his final at bat of the day, gets caught looking on a nice back door curve from Taylor Buccholz. Jose “Can’t stand ya” is stranded at first base. Heading into the bottom of the 5th, still 2-0 Braves.
2:37- Craig Kimbrel on the mound for Atlanta. Will be interesting to see if his control has improved at all from last year, when he posted a 7.0 BB/9 in his major league debut.
2:38- Former Brave and general good-guy Willie Harris gives an interview in the dugout. As always, a Harris interview comes equipped with a fat pinch of tobacco in his bottom lip.
2:39- Fernando Martinez earns an “Atta boy!” from Harris as he blasts a Kimbrel fastball to right field. Kimbrel missed his spot and got punished for it. Tie ballgame now.
2:40- The WPIX broadcast completely crapped out, so now I’m looking at a stock image of the Brooklyn Bridge. Gonna give this the standard 15-minute rule that college students apply when their teacher hasn’t showed up to class. If this isn’t fixed soon, I’m out.
2:43- Ah, okay, that didn’t take long. The broadcast came back just in time to see Brooks Conrad boot another routine play. This is kind of becoming a thing with him, isn’t it? I’d hate to see this pop up down the road and cost us a big game or anyth- wait, what? Ah, shit.
2:49- Craig Kimbrel issues his second walk before getting a second out. He’s really battling with some control right now, hope this doesn’t become a thing with him, I’d hate to see it pop up down the road and cost us a meaningful game or anyth– wait, what? Ah, shit.
2:51- Cristhian Martinez comes in and cleans up the mess, inducing a double-play to get out of the jam. Tie ball game, end of the 5th.
2:56- Freddie Freeman, ladies and gentlemen! Now on pace for 9,352 doubles.
2:59- Conrad caught looking, still 2-2 heading into the bottom of the 6. Would expect to see the benches empty out here soon for Atlanta.
3:01- Just found out that the Mets’ spring training yard is called “Digital Domain Park.” I’m disappointed that the crew passed up a golden “master of his domain” joke when Constanza was pinch running. I expect better out of this group. Cristhian Martinez remains in the game to pitch the 6th for the Braves and works a perfect inning.
3:11- Diory Hernandez is on pace for 4,695 soft ground outs.
3:12- Schafer tries to bunt his way on base, but pushes it just a touch too hard towards third. Nice play by Zach Lutz gets him by a half-step. Still 2-2 heading into the 7th inning stretch. Or in my case, the 7th inning coffee refill.
3:15- Not a whole lot going on for either squad, no major league players left in the game, but no real prospects either. Anthony Varvaro, a 27-year-old waiver pickup, worked the 7th for Atlanta and pitched well against an assortment of nobodies.
3:22- A familiar face makes an appearance when Manny Acosta got in the game for New York. He made short work of the Braves, inspired this hilarious tweet from Peter Hjort.
3:30- Stephen Marek now pitching. You may remember him as a throw-in from the Mark Tiexiera-to-the-Angels deal. At 27, he still has a shot to make an impact with the big club but hasn’t seemed to be too well liked by the organization for whatever reason. He spent all of last season in Richmond, where he put up some nice numbers, including 74 Ks in 63 IP. Marek starts the inning by issuing a walk to Zach Lutz.
3:35- Top 9, the diminutive Matt Young leads off the inning for Atlanta by drawing a walk. Young has an outside shot at making the club as the backup center fielder with a good spring.
3:38- Full count to Joe Mather, it’s pretty a much a guarantee that Young is going to try to steal 2nd here. Nobody wants extra innings and Young is trying to showcase his best skill. The entire ball park knows he’s taking off.
3:41- Mather hits behind the runner but a nice play by the 2nd-basemen Jordany Valdespin manages to keep it in the infield and get the out at 1st. Regardless, the go-ahead run is in scoring position and everyone is hoping for a merciful break in this tie. Nobody wants to see extra innings in February.
3:44- And there it is! Eddie Lucas laces a shot to left-center to plate the go ahead run. “Atta boys” all around.
3:47- Lucas is gunned down by three feet trying to steal 2nd, but the pitch was ball four anyway. In addition to giving up the go ahead run, Manny Acosta has now issued two walks. Good to see he’s already in mid-season form.
3:49- Diory Hernandez’s effort to go for the ground out cycle (one to each fielder) is dashed by the hard infield dirt when the ball bounced over Zach Lutz’s head and into left field. Lucas scores, but is called out for not touching 3rd base. Comical stuff.
3:52- Juan Abreu in to close out the 9th. Please, oh, please let him get through this either without surrendering a run. I’m running low on snark.
3:59- Crap, 1st and 3rd now for the Mets after a beautiful hit-and-run. Abreu needs to either give up a three-run bomb or induce a double play, I won’t settle for allowing the tying run. Extra innings not an option.
4:00- Jordani Valdespin rips a double that one hops the fence. Just groove one, Abreu. I know you’re trying to earn a job and everything, but take it from me, you probably already blew it. You’re not gonna win a job anyway, so just put one over the dish and let someone hit it far so we can all go on about our day. Sound good?
4:06- Abreu walks the bases loaded, bringing up Lucas Duda. [Shameless Star Wars joke time] You’re my only hope, Lucas. (As someone who has been victimized by shameless Star Wars jokes my whole life, it feels good to be on the other end of that deal.
4:07- Duda pops out in foul territory, and we’ve got FREE BASEBALL! I can barely contain the excitement.
4:14- After leadoff singles by Jose Can’t Stand Ya (gotta love spring training substitution rules) and Wilkin Ramirez, JP Boscan lays down a perfect sac bunt to advance them to 2nd and 3rd.
4:17- Matt Young, you are my hero. Braves re-take the lead when Young chops one to short and Constanza beats the throw home. We may be out of this soon enough.
4:20- Ed Lucas with another RBI single, and the rout is on. 5-3 Braves now.
4:25- Keith Hernandez just informed me that Missouri has the most states bordering it in the entire union. This is why you hang around for the 10th inning of spring training games.
4:28- Willie Harris at the plate, his pinch has tripled in size. And just like that, this game is tied again, as he with the forever protruding lower lip plants one behind the wall in left center. Thankfully, this game is going to be called at 10 no matter what happens.
4:30- And that’s all folks! Tie ball game is your final. Always good to blow two saves in one game.
Time to hand out some grades: Freddie Freeman gets an A+ for his triple-double performance; Matt Young and Manny Acosta each get A’s for their collective efforts in the 9th inning, which almost gave us a timely end; Ed Lucas only gets an A- for his two ribbie effort due to failing to touch third base in the 9th, a mistake which only prolonged things; Willie Harris gets an A for his fat pinch and entertaining in-game interview; Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling get a B- for their work in the booth (I have to deduct for failing to fully capitalize on the Constanza joke potential), Juan Abreu gets a D- for a disastrous inning of work, and Brooks Conrad gets an E4.
That concludes this installment of Grapefruit Diaries. Until next time …