Baseball is back, and the Philadelphia Phillies got off to as good a start as anyone could have imagined. The Phillies followed their season-opening sweep of the Atlanta Braves by taking two of three from the New York Mets.
The Phillies already have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Mets and Washington Nationals in the National League, and are three games clear of the Braves. Here are three numbers to remember from their hot start to the season:
3.27 — Bullpen ERA
It’s no secret that the Phillies bullpen was a disaster in 2020. Dave Dombrowski made some moves to bolster this area of weakness during the offseason, and so far, they have paid dividends.
Six of the eight earned runs allowed by Phillies relievers came in Tuesday night’s game – when Vince Velasquez and David Hale both struggled. Outside of these two, the bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 18 2/3 innings pitched, good for a 0.96 ERA.
Beyond the obvious trio of Hector Neris, Jose Alvarado and Archie Bradley – who have been brilliant thus far – Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod have both shined. For Brogdon, this is a continuation of a great end to the 2020 season, and he has now gone nine consecutive appearances without allowing a single earned run.
Coonrod – who was acquired in a trade with the San Francisco Giants during the offseason – pitched two clean innings in Monday’s game, helping the Phillies to stay within two runs and giving them a chance to later take the lead.
The Phillies offense has struggled somewhat this season, and it is hard to imagine they would be 5-1 with last year’s bullpen. But so far in 2021, the team’s relievers have been up to the task, and are a big reason for the early success.
1.46 — ERA between Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin
The back of the Phillies rotation might have questions, but the top three is cemented as one of the better trios in baseball.
While Nola was not great in either outing, he had enough to keep the Phillies in each game. And ultimately, his track record shows that while he is prone to occasional struggle, he is one of the best pitchers in the game when he’s locked in.
Wheeler was great for the Phillies in his lone start and showed that he may be primed to take a leap in the 2021 season. While he was excellent in 2020, Wheeler had a career low K/9 of just 6.7. A jump from consistent number two to solidified ace would be a significant development, and a seven inning outing with 10 strikeouts is a good start.
It is easy to forget what Zach Eflin was at the beginning of his career, but his transformation into a reliable No. 3 starter has been remarkable. Eflin pitched brilliantly in his first start of 2021, allowing just one run in seven strong innings.
These three will be vital to the Phillies season moving forward, and they have all played a role in the team’s hot start thus far.
Seven – Extra-base hits from Rhys Hoskins
There is no question about it – the Phillies lineup has had a slow start to the season. But Hoskins is the exception to that.
He has hit safely in every single game and has three consecutive multi-hit games despite not even starting Tuesday night. His six doubles are tied for the major league lead, and his .417 batting average ranks sixth in the National League.
It’s a different lineup when Hoskins is hitting well, and his success usually leads to team success. Since the start of the 2020 season, the Phillies are 9-2 when he hits a home run and 13-5 when he drives in a run.
The Phillies lineup finally came through on Wednesday, and it is safe to assume a lineup this strong will see better days ahead. But, with everyone else struggling to some extent, Hoskins has been the best hitter on the team and helped the Phillies to win five of their first six.
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