Counting down the greatest Opening Days in Braves history
Opening Day is pomp and circumstance. It's a parade in Cincinnati, massive flags in the outfield and the debut of a championship banner.
But amid the hoopla, there's also actual baseball to get stoked about. As we prepare for the start of the 52nd season for the Braves in Atlanta, here's look at their greatest individual Opening Day performances.
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10. Freddie Freeman in 2013
The only player on this list who's still in a Braves uniform, Freeman had his most productive season opener -- by far -- in 2013. The debut of the Brothers Upton, Justin homered in this one, along with Dan Uggla, but Freeman wasted little time with a two-run, two-out shot off the Phillies' Cole Hamels in the first inning. The first baseman finished 3 for 4 with a three RBI in a 7-5 win.
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9. Yunel Escobar in 2010
This Opening Day will largely be remembered for Jason Heyward's introduction to the baseball masses (more, of course, on that later), and while that moment stole the show, Escobar managed to earn a spot in franchise history in the 16-5 rout of the Cubs. He tied a Braves record -- and set a career-high -- with five RBI in a 2-for-5 day that included a three-run double and two more runs driven in on a single.
8. Derek Lowe in 2009
The Braves played the spoil sports right after the Phillies celebrated a World Series crown and it was Lowe that set the tone on the mound, in his Atlanta debut. He allowed two hits over eight innings, with four strikeouts and zero walks. The sinkerballer also induced 13 ground outs in the 4-1 win.
7. Greg Maddux in 1993
Maddux pitched on four consecutive Opening Days (1993-96) and also got the nod in 1998, 2000 and 2003. Going off game score, his best outing was 1994 when he posted a 75, but just below that was arguably his best season opener in an Atlanta uniform, and it happened to be his first start with the team. Maddux threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings against his former team, the Cubs, striking out four with three walks in a 1-0 victory.
6. Edgar Renteria in 2007
Brian McCann's two-run blast in the fourth inning got the Braves going in the eventual 5-3 win in Philadelphia, but Renteria went deep twice, including a two-run shot in the 10th inning after two failed attempts at a sacrifice bunt. He added a solo shot in the eighth in going 2 for 5 with three RBI.
5. Rick Mahler in 1982
Like Maddux, Mahler made four straight Opening Day starts (1985-88) and made his first back in 1982. That was the best of the bunch as he tossed nine scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Padres, fanning seven with three strikeouts. His game score of 87 is the second-best in franchise history to start a season.
4. Fred McGriff in 1995
The Crime Dog set a Braves record with five RBI, shattering the previous mark of three shared by the likes of Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy when he went deep twice (tying a team mark) in a four-hit day during a 12-5 hammering of the Giants. McGriff followed a solo home run in the fourth with a two-run blast in the eighth as the Braves piled up 17 hits.
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3. Jason Heyward in 2010
As far as singular Opening Day moments go, it's nearly impossible to top the first time Jason Heyward stepped in an MLB batter's box. The metro Atlanta product had just caught the ceremonial first pitch from Hank Aaron when he connected on a Carlos Zambrano fastball -- on his first swing, no less -- for a three-run home run over the right field wall. He went 2 for 5 in all with four RBI in the 16-5 win over the Cubs.
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2. Tony Cloninger/Joe Torre in 1966
Unfair to put two performances together? Maybe, but it would be an injustice to not include what both of these players did in the Braves' first game in Atlanta. Cloninger went an insane 13 innings with a franchise Opening Day-record 12 strikeouts, walking two, while Torre hit two solo home runs (in his second straight season opener with two HRs, mind you). The Braves fell to the Pirates 3-2, but played that game before a crowd of 50,671. Only one other Opening Day at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium outdrew it, April 8, 1974, the date Hank Aaron moved past Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list.
1. Tom Glavine in 1992
Coming off his Cy Young win in 1991, Glavine delivered not only the most dominant Opening Day pitching performance in Braves history, but he also ended some frustrations against an opponent that gave him fits. Glavine entered the Astrodome 0-8 vs. the Astros in 12 starts, but fired a complete game, two-hit shutout, striking out nine with two walks. He equaled Houston with two hits of his own, the last starting an eighth-inning rally in a 2-0 win.