Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mejia and Hale prove hearty in opening games

Two days before making his third career MLB start and first of 2014, Braves pitcher David Hale was vomiting. But he was not sick from nerves.

Hale, 26, joined teammates Evan Gattis and Alex Wood as Braves players who became ill with a stomach bug during the first week of the regular season.

Weak from his illness, Hale impressed by limiting Washington to only five hits in five scoreless innings that helped Atlanta earn a 2-1 win on Friday at Nationals Park.

"That trip was brutal with the flight and everything," Hale said Tuesday. "I was looking ahead to the day off before [my start], but it's good to be back in normal health and everything. I think I'll be feeling pretty good" when he faces the Mets in the series finale on Thursday.

When Atlanta announced its official Opening Day roster on March 29, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez joked that Hale cracked the starting rotation over Gus Schlosser because of his MLB experience -- two spot starts last September.

"All of two starts," Gonzalez said while laughing.

Albeit brief, Hale credits last season's experience for how he carries himself as a member of Atlanta's starting rotation this year. Given his 0.56 ERA in three career starts, he had made the most of his limited chances on a Major League mound.

"It was good to have a few under my belt from last year, and it's good to have one under my belt this year kind of just to see how everything goes," Hale said. "Nothing's new to me. I can kind of feel more comfortable with the whole situation."

Mets starter Jenrry Mejia takes the hill opposite Hale hoping for a more efficient and less painful outing than his 4-3 win against the Reds on April 5. He gave up only one run in six innings of work, but threw 101 pitches and took a line drive off his ankle.

Mejia also took a comebacker off his elbow in an exhibition start against the Blue Jays in Toronto on March 28. Despite the rotten luck, Mejia has remained healthy and pitching after beating out Daisuke Matsuzaka for New York's fifth rotation spot.

Mets: Lagares makes highlight-reel plays
  • Juan Lagares made plays with his bat and his glove in Wednesday's loss to the Braves, continuing his red-hot start to 2014.
He notched a two-run single in the top of the ninth against Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel to cut the Braves' lead to to 4-2 and finished 1-for-4. He has hit safely in seven of eight games this season and his batting average sits at .321 (9-for-28).

But his acrobatic first-inning catch on the center-field wall to rob Freddie Freeman of an extra-base hit caught Gonzalez's attention.

"That's going after a ball and catching it, trying to catch it as soon as the ball is hit," said Gonzalez.
  • New York third baseman David Wright finished 2-for-4 with a run scored on Wednesday, after a 2-for-21 skid in his previous six games.
  • The Mets plated three ninth-inning runs on Wednesday, including one on two hits against Kimbrel. The run was the first scored against Kimbrel this season and the first the right-hander has allowed since Sept. 17, 2013.

 Braves: Offense comes alive in victory
  • The Braves entered Wednesday ranked 28th in the Majors with a batting average of .159 (7-for-44) with runners in scoring position and last with 15 runs scored and a .263 on-base percentage.
In Wednesday's 4-3 win against the Mets, three Braves enjoyed multihit games as Atlanta finished 4-for-7 with runners and scoring position and totaled nine hits in all.

Six different Braves reached base, including starting pitcher Ervin Santana on a fifth-inning single to right field.
  • Jason Heyward snapped out of his 0-for-22 slump with a 3-for-4 performance on Wednesday night that included his fourth career leadoff home run and an RBI single in the fifth.

Worth noting
  • Mejia has made one other start against the Braves, giving up four runs on six hits in five innings of work on Sept. 30, 2012. Mejia gave up Chipper Jones' final regular-season hit, a third-inning single in a 6-2 Atlanta victory at Turner Field.
  • Former NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip attended the Braves-Mets game on Wednesday night at Turner Field. 
  • Hale has never faced the Mets.

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