Has the Phillies Pitching Staff Turned Over a New Leaf?

MLB: AUG 13 Orioles at Phillies
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 13: Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto (10) celebrates a home run with Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) during the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies on August 13, 2020 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

“Shut up! The Phillies have only played one game! Don’t judge their 2021 season based on a single game! You’re an absolute nincompoop, Ricky!

Look, I know. Hear me out.

For backstory, the Philadelphia Phillies put on a show during opening day. In front of a crowd of 8,800 fans, the red pinstripes hopefully showed everyone a glimpse of what is to come. Despite going to extra innings, the Phillies used the runner-on-second-base rule to their advantage, winning the game 3-2 in the 10th over the Atlanta Braves.

The Phillies’ offense put together nine total hits, with six coming against Braves’ ace Max Fried. Every position player had at least one hit with the exception of Alec Bohm, but even he contributed with a sacrifice fly to score a run. Jean Segura had a walk-off down the left-field line. The hitting was all fun and games and ultimately won them the game on the scoresheet in the end. However, the real storyline from this game was definitely the combination of their pitching.

The Starter

Phillies’ Ace Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola got the nod for his fourth straight opening day bid. To put it simply, Nola did not disappoint.

Early in the game, the Phillies’ ace was dealing. Through six and 2/3 innings, Nola did not allow a run. Up until Cristian Pache doubled with two outs in the seventh, the righty from Louisiana was absolutely cruising with his pitch count as well. His 78 pitches through 6.2 innings were stellar numbers, and he was on easy pace to pitching into the eighth inning. However, Pache doubled, then Pablo Sandoval did 2010 Pablo Sandoval things against the Phillies to tie the game up at two.

The pitch Nola threw on Sandoval’s homerun was bad, and borderline just putrid. It’s a shame that a single bad pitch prevented him from getting the decision in this one, but that wasn’t the story of the game. The right hander was in mid season form, striking out six in his time as well, making a bit of Phils’ history.

Just for fun, Nola actually had a successful sacrifice bunt as well. The Phillies’ ace looked like an ace, and is off to an exciting start to the 2021 season.

The Phillies’ Bullpen

Woahhhhh, Nelly! Did we see three and a third scoreless from the PHILLIES’ bullpen?!?!

The Phillies used four different relievers after Nola exited with two outs in the seventh, which is more than they probably expected. However, they got the job done- something we couldn’t have trusted last year.

Archie Bradley was the first up, coming into the game as relief for Nola directly. In his Phillies’ debut, Bradley did walk Ronald Acuna Jr. on six pitches. After shaking the jitters, though, he got Ozzie Albies to line out on a single pitch to end the inning.

Jose Alvarado came in to start the eighth inning, where he did struggle a bit. He let up a leadoff walk to Freddie Freeman on four pitches. Travis d’Arnaud followed that up with a quick single. Alvarado was able to strikeout Dansby Swanson on three pitches but then hit Austin Riley with a wild fastball. However, a mix of some great defense and his mega-heat fastball got him out of the bases-loaded jam.

Hector Neris, who was named the closer for the foreseeable future, came in and took down the Braves 1-2-3 in the ninth. Connor Brogdon got the job done in the tenth despite the runner starting on second as well, again with some help from the Phillies’ defense.

Phillies’ Impact

The relievers actually were… relieving. This offseason, Dave Dombrowski focused on getting speed on the mound to blow opposing batters away. This was on full display Thursday afternoon, with Alvarado even hitting triple digits a few times. The bullpen, at a very quick glance, seems to be figured out. If the Phillies had this last year, it could be argued that they would have made the playoffs.

In the ultra-competitive NL East, the same sentiment could carry into 2021. Except, the new-look Phillies’ pitching staff could be the reason they sneak into the playoffs instead of deterring them.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire