The 2019 season has begun with significantly different expectations than this area has seen in a very long time. After Opening Weekend, your Philadelphia Phillies are the only undefeated team in the majors and well on their way to 162-0. OK… maybe that’s a bit over the top but there is something about this team in the early going that gives Phillies fans a newfound sense of hope.
After their Opening Day win, the Phils went on to take their aggression out on many Rawlings baseballs. On Saturday, Nick Pivetta did not pitch well (4.2 IP, 8 hits, 4 runs) but the offense and bullpen took over from there. 6 of their 9 hits left the field of play (2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 HR) and they were 2-4 with RISP. 5 bullpen arms combined for 3.1 innings of no hit, no run ball until newcomer David Robertson allowed 2 hits and 2 runs in the 9th. Luckily, the Phils had a 4 run cushion going in and they were able to close things out for the 8-6 win.
Sunday was more of a COUGH “pitchers duel” COUGH. Jake Arrieta struggled through 6 innings allowing 6 BB’s and striking out 6 but allowed just 3 hits. Despite getting himself in trouble on a few occasions, including loading the bases on walks in the first, he managed to keep the Braves at bay long enough for the offense to come through. McCutchen and Harper each hit their 2nd HR’s of the season. Franco, Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins each knocked in a run and the bullpen shut the Braves down for the final 3 innings to pick up the 5-1 win and remain the only unbeaten team in the majors.
3 players have hit multiple HR’s, including 2 of their newest additions, Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper. Harper’s 2 blasts have totaled nearly 900 feet. Maikel Franco is 4-9 (.444) with 2 HR and 7 RBI after opening weekend, all tops on the team…out of the 8-hole.
Each of the Phillies 4 new additions have contributed to some level. Harper has a 1.650 OPS. Cutch has just 2 hits but they’ve both left the yard. J.T. Realmuto hit his first homer as a Phillie over the weekend as well, has a 1.083 OPS and has thrown out 3 attempted base stealers already. Jean Segura has struggled some having K’d 4 times already (only 69 all of last year) but that will change as he adapts to N.L. pitchers.
While it is an obviously small sample, only 2 of the starters have an average below .250. This # was closer to 5 or 6 through the majority of last year. They are hitting with RISP. They are drawing walks (20 through 3 games) and they are averaging 7 runs a game through the first weekend. This is a DRASTIC change from last year and it does not seem to be an anomaly. Enjoy this Philly.
Aaron Nola dominated, Pivetta struggled and Arrieta worked his way through 6 innings. Robertson and Hector Neris have both struggled allowing HR’s but the remainder of the bullpen have allowed just 2 hits (both Pat Neshek). The main difference this year from last year is that if/when the bullpen struggles, they may not be trying to hold a 1 or 2 run lead or trying to keep the team within striking distance as they were in virtually every game last year.
Overall, this is going to be a lot of fun to watch. They may not knock the cover off the ball every night, but they will be competitive every night. If the top of the lineup is down, the middle and bottom can pick them up. If the mashers are struggling, the rest can nickel and dime them. I came into this season with a 88 win projection.
The Phils make a quick trip down I95 to Harper’s former home, Washington D.C. for a 2 game set with the Nationals (1-2). If you think Phils fans have taken that place over in the past…this should be fun. Zach Eflin will take on Max Scherzer in game 1 on Tuesday night. Scherzer shut down the Mets on Opening Day and will be a test for the new-look Phils lineup. Aaron Nola will take the bump for the 2nd time on Wednesday afternoon facing Anibal Sanchez.
The Minnesota Twins (2-1) come into Philly for 3 games over the weekend.
For the first time in a long time, Phillie fans will not have to hide in the shadows or suffer through painful losses watching the team struggle to score on a nightly basis. It’s fun to be a Phils fan again. There is a buzz at the ballpark unlike anything seen in the last 8 years and it will likely only get better as the weather warms and the offense heats up even more.
Enjoy this, Phillie fans!