After wrapping up their Spring Training up in Clearwater, the Phillies made their 2018 Opening Day debut in a road game against the Braves. It was an eventful outing, as Aaron Nola made his first Opening Day start and the Phils played their first meaningful game of 2018. Let’s recap the action from SunTrust Park:
Caesar Hernandez wasted no time collecting the first hit of the season, driving the third pitch he faced for a single. A few at-bats after recording the first hit of the year, Rhys Hoskins drove in the team’s first run of the campaign, as he doubled Carlos Santana home to give the Phillies an early 1-0 lead.
Young ace Aaron Nola made his first Opening Day start this evening, but had the demeanor of a vet used to such a task. Nola breezed through the Braves lineup before being pulled prematurely by Gabe Kapler. Nola allowed just three hits and recorded three punchouts in 5 1⁄3 innings. He possessed excellent command of his pitches and his curveball seemed to be in midseason form:
Today is Nola day and Aaron Nola's curveball struck out the side in third. pic.twitter.com/TCKnWYn5d1
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 29, 2018
Patience is a Virtue
The Phillies displayed superb plate discipline at the top of the sixth inning. After a solo homer by Hernandez- his second consecutive Opening Day bomb- and a Hoskins HBP, the Phillies drew three consecutive walks. The last of the three walks came with the bases loaded and pushed the Phils lead to 2-0. I was impressed with how Maikel Franco was disciplined enough to take a pitch on a 3-1 count instead of trying to launch a grand slam over the wall- hopefully he can continue to stay disciplined. Even more impressive was Andrew Knapp’s two-run single in the following at-bat. The Phillies really piled it on in the sixth inning, and seemed to be in full control of the ball game.
Late Game Shenanigans
The Phils ran into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth inning, however, as they suffered the first error of the season. Following a walk to Kurt Suzuki, Andrew Knapp threw the ball passed Maikel Franco while trying to throw a runner out at third. Peter Bourjos singled home a run shortly after that, and a once 5-0 Phils lead quickly turned into a tie ball game at five. Fortunately the Phils were able to stop the bleeding and escape the inning without going down, but it was an ugly inning nonetheless.
Despite coming out the gates running with a 5-0 lead, the Phils drop the first game of the season to the Braves. Atlanta scored eight unanswered points- the final three coming on a walk off blast from Nick Markakis.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for the young Phils, but they’ll get a shot at revenge tomorrow when Nick Pivetta takes the mound.
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports