No matter what, I'm glad they're back. The offseason was long and cold, and there weren't a lot of happy memories from 2012 to keep me going. What I needed was brand new baseball, and I certainly got that tonight.
Cole Hamels wasn't great during his very first Opening Day start, allowing five runs on seven hits in just five innings. But honestly, I didn't expect him to be stellar. Historically, Hamels has pitched badly during his first start of the year. The average ERA of his first start of the season from 2009 through tonight is 11.15. And since 2010 he's bounced back just fine. That being said, Hamels really coughed up a huge hairball tonight. He allowed three home runs -- a two-run shot to Freeman in the first inning, and a solo shot each to Dan Uggla and Justin Upton. Yes, the Justin Upton that the Diamondbacks didn't want. Seriously, what's wrong with them?
The middle relief didn't do much better as Chad Durbin came in to pitch the sixth and promptly welcomed the next three hitters reach base at varying intervals -- Uggla walked, Chris Johnson doubled, and Gerald Laird (who?) singled. Durbin was escorted from the mound having gotten no one out, though mercifully he was given the hook quickly. Durbin's outing would cost the Phillies two runs, which is coincidentally the exact amount of runs they lost by. Jeremy Horst, i.e. the guy the Phillies got for Wilson Valdez, pitched two scoreless innings, and Phillippe Aumont, i.e. that really really giant Canadian guy, handled the eighth.
So while Hamels stank and Durbin sucked, and John Mayberry Jr. was starting for some reason, there were a few things to be happy about. Gloriously happy about.
Guys, Chase Utley Had Himself A Game. After grounding out in the first, Utley hit a fourth inning solo shot off Tim Hudson. In the fifth, he hit a two run single to bring his RBI total to three. He even tossed in a triple in the seventh inning, leaving him a double short of the cycle. At several points during the game, my in-progress recap simply read "CHASE UTLEY CHASE UTLEY CHASE UTLEY WOOOOOO!!!" several hundred times. Seriously, try to form coherent thoughts when Chase Utley is being all Chase Utley. It's hard!
The awesomeness of Utley wasn't the only thing happening, either. Despite some defensive issues, Domonic Brown had a decent night at the plate, going 1-for-3 with a walk. And even though they left 8 men on base, they scored a decent number of runs. In fact, the only Phillies without hits tonight were Ryan Howard and Michael Young, and that includes Cole Hamels. (Womp womp.) If Hamels was spinning in midseason form, five runs would have been more than enough.
So I'm ready to see what else these Phillies have to show us. And luckily, they have another 161 games to do it. And even more luckily, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox probably won't be at any more of them. Thank Christ.
Fangraph of CHASE UTLEY I LOVE YOU EEEEEEE!