Phillies Fan Reaction (PFR): ATL 4, PHI 10 - Grand
Ring. The. Bell.
We've covered the Eagles and Notre Dame on this blog before, so it's time to give the Phillies some love. And on Opening Day, the Philadelphia Phillies WON in grand fashion, 10-4 over the Atlanta Braves.
The last seven year stretch of Phillies baseball had been one of the worst in the club's 137-year history. After making the playoffs every year from 2007-2011, including a World Series appearance in 2009 and a WS win in 2008, the Phillies fell into the doldrums. The team was forced to rebuild, a process that was slowed thanks to the large, immovable contracts on the team's payroll. They bottomed out in 2015, with a league-worst 63-99 record.
However, 2018 provided hope. Philadelphia showed strides for the first time in forever, and were in first place in the NL East as late as August 15th. But a late collapse, capped off by an 8-20 September, led to another season without meaningful October baseball.
Phillies management was determined not to let that happen again. Owner John Middleton said the team was willing to spend "stupid money." They traded for two All Stars in shortstop Jean Segura from Seattle and catcher J.T. Realmuto from Miami. They improved their bullpen by signing former All Star David Robertson, and a former NL MVP in outfielder Andrew McCutchen. And of course, the belle of the ball, Bryce Harper, on a then-record 13-year, $330 million contract.
The team's performance certainly backed up their front office's decisions. While the new guys made most of the offseason headlines, it was mostly returning players making an impact on Thursday. Aaron Nola, who finished 3rd in NL Cy Young voting last year pitched 6 innings of one-run baseball, striking out eight. After a 1-2-3 first, McCutchen took the 3rd pitch of the season and blasted a solo homer to the left-center power alley in his first at-bat as a Phil.
Atlanta was able to tie the game in the top of the 2nd, but the Phillies retook the lead shortly there after. Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez delivered back-to-back RBI singles in the bottom of the 4th. Last season, Herrera was usually found in the 3-hole, and Cesar Hernandez often lead off. Now they're the Phillies 6 and 7 hitters, proving that for once the Phillies have depth in their lineup as a result of the fallout from acquiring several stars.
Another player bumped down in the lineup due to the additions is Maikel Franco. Franco, once a top prospect at third base, had struggled to live up to the expectations that came with often hitting 3rd or 4th in the lineup. On Thursday, he hit 8th, and in the bottom of the 6th, he hit one out, a 3-run bullet over the left field fence. Maiky doing his best to become the Phillies Wayne Simmonds, as he homered in the home opener last year (remember how Simmer had 5 goals in the Flyers last two openers?) as well.
When Hector Neris gave up a pinch-hit two-run homer in the top of the 7th, everyone's anxiety perked up. However, these weren't the same choking Phillies of old. They might have blown a 5-run lead on Opening Day last year to the Braves, but not this year. So when Bryce Harper was intentionally walked with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with nobody out, I had a good feeling.
GRAND SLAM RHYS LIGHTNING!!!!!!!!!!
Noted masher of baseballs Rhys Hoskins picked up from the offseason with his first career grand slam, putting the game out of reach. Atlanta scored one more run, but by then, the game's fate was set in stone. By the time Pat Neshek struck out Johan Carmago with 2 outs in the 9th, a new era of Phillies baseball had already begun.
Finally, the Phillies are ready to be great again. They weren't ready for it last year - the final 45 games proved that. But this game proved the opposite. After seven long years of waiting, spent watching scrubs like Delmon Young, Cedric Hunter, and Sean O'Sullivan toil away, I, and the entire Phillies fanbase, has been rewarded. No more time in the basement. No more of the Phillies being the doormat of the National League. They have risen from the dead, the dreams of Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels able to be replaced with Rhys Hoskins dingers and Aaron Nola dazzling curveballs.
Two thousand, seven hundred and thirty days after their last Postseason game, the Philadelphia Phillies we know have finally returned. And it feels oh so good.