The Phillies open Citizens Bank Ballpark for what should be their most promising, or at least most interesting, season in a half-decade. Kind of wish it wouldn’t have been against one of the two or three National League favorites. But here we are, with baseball back in South Philadelphia.
What to expect
On Monday night, we thought this might be the welcome home for an upstart with potential. Now the Phils come home 1-2, outscored 11-5 over their last 25 innings. Yup, that’s five runs in 25 innings. To make matters worse, here’s something you already knew: The Nationals are not the Reds. Big news. The Nationals are better than the Phillies (and the Reds) in every way, shape and form. But hey, who knows. Maybe there is some lightning in a bottle here to catch, and maybe the Phillies are playing the Nats at the right time and can win two of three. It’s not something I’d bet any amount of money on, but it’s fun to think of.
Forget it, this is the home opener. Let’s have some fun and win some games.
Friday at 3:05 p.m., Vincent Velasquez vs. Max Scherzer
Awww, isn’t that nice of them? The Nationals decided to hold back the reigning National League Cy Young winner, and undoubtedly one of the five best pitchers in baseball, to spoil the Phillies’ home opener. Probably since he got all that work in the World Baseball Classic (burn 1). The Phillies did the right thing themselves in holding back two of their three best (or at least most promising) starters for this series, but this is asking a lot from Velasquez in the home opener. Look at this Nats pitching lineup for the series, and it’s almost like manager Dusty Baker thought to send a message to the Phils: “Oh yeah? You think you guys are coming up? That’s cute. Hold my beer…”
Saturday at 7:05 p.m., Joe Ross (probable, not announced) vs. Aaron Nola
This is the one game of the series that you think the Phils, on paper, can win. That may be disrespecting Joe Ross, but when you’re dealing with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the bookends, you take what you can get. Big game for Nola. You never want to base your opinion on any pitcher from their first game of a season, but let’s just say it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Nola to go out and shut down the Nats here.
Sunday at 1:35 p.m., Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
If he’s not hurt by Sunday and can start (burn 2), Strasburg has just eaten up and spit out the Phillies in 17 career starts. In 110 innings – which is like a full season for him (burn 3) – he’s 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA, a 0.836 WHIP and had 11.3 K/IP against the Phillies. That’s by far the best of his numbers against any NL East team. And with as right-handed as the Phillies are, and as offensively challenged as we’ve seen them be for the last couple years and the first three games of the year, umm, I’m taking the under (what’s the over/under going to be on this game? 5? 6? 2?) in this one. That pick of under is also because Hellickson’s Monday showing might not be fool’s gold, it might be what he can do consistently. Let’s focus on how well he pitched Monday and not on the Phillies potential offense against Strasburg and how it might only take about two hours to get this one in. Cool? Cool.