Braves 5, Phillies 3
ATLANTA (AP)—The Atlanta Braves had to go with a replacement to get the sort of effort they’re used to getting from their starters.
Too bad John Thomson spent so much time on the basepaths.
Thomson went five strong innings in his first start of the year and Marcus Giles hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning to give the Braves a win in their home opener, 5-3 over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.
Thomson went 2-for-2 at the plate, putting Atlanta ahead with a two-run double in the fourth. But all that extra running tired him out, and he came out an inning earlier that planned after throwing 72 pitches.
“He was gassed,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He shouldn’t get so many hits so he doesn’t have to run so much.”
Thomson didn’t get the win—the bullpen squandered a 3-1 lead after he came out—but he still gave a major boost to a beleaguered rotation that had an ERA of 10.09 over the first seven games, giving up 34 earned runs in 30 1-3 innings.
“That’s what we’re used to around here,” Giles said. “That’s what we’re going to get. We have too many good starters to let that happen.”
Not surprisingly, the Braves entered the night ranked last in the NL with an ERA of 7.58—a startling spot for a team that usually ranks at or near the top of the league in pitching.
Thomson didn’t even start the season in the rotation. He was the odd man out of a six-man contest in the spring, but reclaimed his familiar role after Horacio Ramirez went on the disabled list.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” said Thomson, who had only one relief appearance in 196 career games before making two last week. “It’s all I’ve ever known. This is more of a comfort zone for me.”
The Braves, coming off a 3-4 West Coast trip to start the season, made their Turner Field debut before a sellout crowd of 47,332 that included former President Carter, who wore a Braves cap and watched from a box next to the Atlanta dugout with his wife, Rosalyn.
Chris Reitsma, who blew a lead the previous day by giving up two ninth-inning runs in San Francisco, was booed when he entered the game in the ninth. But he pitched a perfect inning for his third save in four chances.
“It’s nice to have a nice, clean win,” Reitsma said. “The 1-2-3 (inning) is obviously great. But the goal is to get it done before the other team scores.”
Atlanta jumped ahead in the fourth with a two-out rally. Brian McCann and Wilson Betemit singled before Thomson drove a pitch from Brett Myers over the head of center fielder Aaron Roward for a bases-clearing double.
Betemit started at third for Chipper Jones, who went on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained knee and ankle.
Philadelphia picked up an unearned run in the fifth when Atlanta right fielder Jeff Francoeur let Rowand’s single skip by him and roll to the wall. Jimmy Rollins scored all the way from first to make it 2-1.
Andruw Jones restored the Braves’ two-run lead with a 410-foot homer to center field off Myers in the bottom half, producing another two-out run for Atlanta. Myers went five innings, giving up seven hits and three runs while striking out six.
“I made two bad pitches,” he said. “I threw a good cutter to everybody but (Thomson). What are you going to do? The one to Andruw, I didn’t expect him to swing at it. It wasn’t a great pitch, but he hit it.”
Philadelphia tied it up in the seventh on Bobby Abreu’s sacrifice fly off Oscar Villareal (3-0), who blew one for Thomson but became the first three-game winner in the majors.
Rollins of the Phillies went 3-for-4 with a walk and has now hit safely in 42 of 43 games. The only hitless game, of course, snapped a 38-game streak that stretched back to last season.
Now, he’s got a new streak going, hitting safely in four straight. But he’s not getting much help from his teammates.
“We’re waiting on the big hit,” Rollins said. “It just hasn’t come. It’s single, single.”
No one if struggling has much as Francoeur. Last year’s rookie sensation went 0-for-4 and is now just 2-of-33 (.061) on the season.
The Braves celebrated their 40th anniversary in Atlanta during opening night ceremonies before the game. Actually, though, this is their 41st season. The team moved from Milwaukee before the 1966 season. … Singer Edwin McCain, a native Atlantan, performed the national anthem, with the last part of the song drowned out by four F-18 Hornets that roared over Turner Field. … NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson attended the game. … It was Cormier vs. Cormier. Lance Cormier came on to pitch for the Braves in the sixth inning, and Rheal Cormier took over for the Phillies in the bottom half. The two are not related. … Thomson last two-RBI game came on May 1, 2004, at Colorado.