It took just the first of more than 2,000 games that await unwrapping this year to know this season is made of an entirely different DNA than that which just passed. When opening night was over, Atlanta right fielder
So what's new? The Braves, with their franchise player laying down a new attitude -- "We're sick of being the laughingstock," was what Francouer recalled of Jones' pregame channeling of
"Everyone talks about the Mets and Phillies, and rightly so," Francoeur said. "We want to get back into that discussion. "We have eight guys in our lineup who could hit 20 home runs. We may not have the 3-4-5 guys the Mets and Phillies do, but 1 through 8, we're as good as any team in our division."
Francoeur, after a miserable 2008 season in which he hit .239 with 11 home runs, sought help from Rangers hitting coach
With a revitalized Francoeur, the energetic play of Schafer (who joined
"When you give up two hits to the Phillies, in this park?" Francoeur said. "That's impressive."
Actually, Lowe did something no pitcher ever did before in the history of Citizens Bank Bandbox: He allowed as few as two baserunners while throwing as many as eight innings. The Phillies scored nothing off him.
The Phillies, too, quickly discovered 2008 is so yesterday, though they proudly celebrated it before the game with pomp and circumstance -- which could very well be the names of their No. 4 and 5 starters before this year is out. Look at this way: The Phillies are built at the moment to give 90 starts to
Philadelphia saw the bad Myers last night, at least over the first two innings, when three mistakes cost him four runs on three homers -- which meant the end of the ball game because of the way Lowe threw.
"I feel like last year if something like that happened I might have folded," Myers said. "I might have given up an eight-spot instead of a four-spot."
Well, that's progress. But here's the thing about Myers: He is 27, still working on a decent changeup, and since 2006 he has been in out of the bullpen, in and out of the minor leagues, and is 15-21 with a 4.52 ERA.
Other than the pregame ceremonies, the Phillies for one night offered little in the way of expecting the good times of 2008 to keep rolling. Manager
Such stories are typical of the bills that come due for pennant winning teams in their followup seasons. None of the past 14 pennant winners have returned to the World Series. Half of them didn't even make the playoffs and the other half were 3-7 in postseason series.
Of course, no one dares to write off a rugged Phillies team on the basis of one game, other than maybe the few fans who booed Myers and Ibanez. ("That's Philly," Myers said, shrugging.) Indeed, the Phillies have turned slow starts into their own Philly tradition, having begun the previous three seasons 24-22, 26-28 and 24-24. Wake them up when it's June.
But there was something specific about how Philadelphia faded out on Day One that bears watching. Manuel chose to bat left-handers Utley,
"We've played one game, man," Manuel said. "What would you suggest?"
Well, here's an idea, now that $31.5 million already has been spent on a soon-to-be 37-year-old left-handed hitter who has never played in a playoff game: Put
"We can shuffle guys around more than likely wind up where it's at [now]," Manuel said. "Maybe we can find a right-handed hitter between them that gets hot."
It was only one game, as Victorino pointed out, "so we're not going to just shoot ourselves in the foot."
Right. It was only one game, but, like one of those visual perception tests in which you might see a vase and somebody else might see two faces in profile, the Braves and Phillies could see something totally different from the same game. It was something to believe in, or it was something to discard. What it most definitely was not, was 2008 anymore.