For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Phillies’ opening series did not start as planned. With expectations yet again through the proverbial roof and Citizens Bank Park packed to the gills with excited fans, the Phillies laid an egg in their first two games against the dreaded Atlanta Braves, first losing 9-3 and then 12-4. Thankfully, the bats and the bullpen seemed to wake up on Sunday, granting the Phillies a comeback 5-4 win over Atlanta, preserving hope and, more importantly, their dignity in front of yet another sold-out crowd.

The important thing is that the season is just three games old. The Phillies haven’t buried themselves by losing two out of three to Atlanta, and hope for a better start than last year is still very much alive. After all, it’s not like they’ve lost their first four games in a row. On Monday night, they’ll welcome Cincinnati and, with them, the chance to start the season off on the right foot. Here’s what we can glean from this past weekend’s action. 

 


The Good

Zach Wheeler was in command during the team’s Opening Day loss to the Braves, striking out five and walking none over six shutout innings. He wasn’t completely dominant, but he was strong and, perhaps more importantly, deceptive. As his fastball velocity now sits firmly in the 95-96 mph region, his command and break of his pitches are imperative to his success. Both looked sharp on Friday. 

Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott each have four hits in their first three games, including a two-run single from Bohm to put the Phillies ahead for good on Sunday afternoon. Although Brandon Marsh is just 1-6, his lone hit was a two-run shot off of Braves’ ace Spencer Strider. In limited action, the Phillies daycare hasn’t looked half bad. 

J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos are both 3-10 in their first three games of the year, with Realmuto adding a home run and Castellanos with two RBIs over the weekend. Their pop will be needed in the middle of the order, especially if the big guys at the top are slow to make things happen. 

 

The Bad

Trea Turner has been puzzled at the plate, with just two hits over 11 at-bats with four strikeouts thus far into the season. He also let an easy ground ball roll under his glove for an error in Friday’s game. One of his two hits this year, however, was a game-tying RBI in Sunday’s matchup. If last year was indicative of anything, it seems that Turner’s fielding and hitting are equally affected by his confidence and rise and fall as one. Keep an eye on his performance in the field if the offense is slow to get going this year. 

Bryce Harper, hitless through his first two games, took quite the tumble into the dugout on Saturday’s blowout loss. Harper missed Sunday’s game, supposedly just as a pre-scheduled rest day, but his health and availability are worth monitoring. The offense will come, but his ability to stay in the field has a ripple effect on the entire lineup.

 

The Ugly

In just four and a third short innings, Aaron Nola let up 12 hits and seven earned runs. It was one of the worst outings of his career, and fresh off of signing a seven-year, $172 million contract extension, not a great look. However, in Nola’s defense, he just didn’t have it. That was clearly evident, yet manager Rob Thompson kept him in for 89 pitches to preserve the bullpen for Sunday’s game. Hopefully, it was nothing more than a bad start. The Phillies need Nola at full strength to make another run at a World Series title.

Save for Jeff Hoffman’s solid weekend and Jose Alvarado’s save on Sunday, the bullpen looked terrible. Like really bad. Not only did the unit struggle to throw strikes, they got hit hard all weekend long. The trio of Matt Strahm, Seranthony Dominguez, and Alvarado combined to let up 10 runs in 4.2 innings against the Braves. While none were great, Dominguez is the most concerning. His stuff appears to be largely the same: a high nineties sinker with a solid breaking ball, but he’s allowed three earned runs in just 1.2 innings pitched this year. Dominguez’s talent alone warrants him in the conversation for the whole time closer role–however, if he cannot find consistency, expect to see him in lower leverage situations early on this year. 

 


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