A common mantra of Phillies fans is "We never start strong," which amounts to Bart Simpson rocking back and forth saying "Krusty is Coming."
For the latter it was a summer dream mired in a walking hell. For the former, it looks like a second straight summer of walking hell is coming (I don't count 2012 because I think there was still hope that year).
However, there is some reality based in the fact that the Phillies don't usually start strong. In fact, it even dwindles down to Opening Day usually being a less than joyous occasion. Well at least in perception. In the past 30 years the Phillies are actually sitting at a 14-16 clip which is actually indicative of the last few years of their ball club. Good, but not more than average.
For those excitedly looking towards a 2 pm start against Texas I wanted to take a quick look back at the last 10 years and countdown the past opening days. For purposes of this countdown the worst opening day is at #10 and the best is at #1. Let's begin:
10.) 2006, Lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 13-5
44,614 people packed Citizen's Bank Park in order to see the good guys battle the eventual World Series champs and the tide seemed to be turning towards the Phillies being a playoff contender. A Jim Edmonds double to rightquickly quieted that as the Cardinals jumped to an early 1-0 lead off Jon Lieber. The wheels came off in the 4th as the Cardinals scored 8 to turn a 2-0 lead into a 10-0 lead. It was punctuated by a Scott Rolen grand slam. The Phillies did touch up Chris Carpenter a little but the damage was done already and we are off to a rollicking 0-1 start.
9.) 2008, Lose to the Washington Nationals, 11-6
44,553 people were there for Opening Day and the results were just as bad. The Phillies actually showed some fight here. Brett Myers and Ryan Madson combined to put us in an early hole but the Phillies offense clawed back and tied the game at 6 in the bottom of the 7th on the heels of a JRoll 2 run home run. Clearly he wasn't lazy then. The place was rocking for a little and this looked good. Then Tom Gordon showed up. He came in the top of the 9th and went a third of an inning giving up 4 hits and 5 runs. A 135.00 ERA later and the Phillies whimpered away with an 0-1 start.
8.) 2009- Lose to the Atlanta Braves 4-1
Our guys were the defending champions and they were given the kickoff slot on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Brett Myers decided to pay it forward and served up taters to the Braves. Jordan Schafer, Jeff Francoeur, and Brian McCann all took Myers up on his generosity, and Derek Lowe’s sinker was dancing down all night long as he scattered 2 hits over 8 innings. That is right- the Braves hit more home runs than we had hits. At least we would have the last laugh this year.
7.) 2004- Lose 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates
This felt like a mismatch and the Phillies seemed like they were on the way up. This game showed how far away they really were. They were overmatched for 6 innings by future Hall of Not Very Good pitcher Kip Wells- who to be fair was coming off his career year. Jose Mesa slammed the door shut in the 9th. Kevin Millwood pitched gamely but overall this was a huge disappointment of an outing for everyone involved.
6.) 2013- Lose 7-5 to the Atlanta Braves
If we were going to have any chance this year it was going to require going through the Atlanta Braves who went splashy during the off-season bringing in the Upton Brothers. Their strategy worked and our strategy of holding our pieces didn’t work. 51,000+ saw Dan Uggla, Justin Upton, and Freddie Freeman go long off of Cole Hamels. No truth to the rumor that 51,000 was more fans than the rest of their home games for the year combined. The Phillies did battle back against the vaunted Braves bullpen, but Craig Kimbrel entered in the 9th and quickly did what so many Phillies relievers have been bad at over the years- dousing fires.
5.) 2007- Lose to the Atlanta Braves 5-3
At times Brett Myers and at times he gave back to the Braves again. Edgar Renteria was the star here as he tied the game at 3 in the top of the 8th and then in the top of the 10th he hit a big 2 run home run off of Ryan Madson. It was non descript in many ways but it was a sad start to the year as the Phillies actually looked good up to those points.
4.) 2012- Win 1-0 over the Pittsburgh Pirates
Two teams heading in different directions. The Phillies and Pirates had a really solid and quick Opening Day game. The Pirates struggled to get any hits off Phillies pitchers and this was looking more and more like it would be a hugely disappointing loss. That was until we saw the speed of Ty Wigginton. He singled and then moved to third on a double by Mayberry. Carlos Ruiz lofted a shallow fly ball to right and Wigginton busted home beating the throw of Jose Tabata. Halladay and Papelbon threw 102 pitches to get through the game and this looked like it would be a great start to the year.
3.) 2005- Win 8-4 over the Washington Nationals
The Phillies did what they usually did and got behind early. Then they turned the jets on and scored the next 7 to take a 7-1 lead and coast to an 8-4 victory. The big moment was Kenny Lofton chasing Livian Hernandez with a big 3 run home run. This season would end as normal but they looked like it might be different.
2.) 2011- Win over the Houston Astros 5-4
I guess in hindsight there were warning signs here but it was lost in the joyous nature of that bottom of the ninth. The Astros got to a 4-0 lead by scoring 3 times off JC Romero and David Herndon in the 7th. We cut that in half in the bottom of the inning and then it fell into a holding pattern until that 9th inning. Brandon Lyon came in and served up his usual brand of shakiness. Single after single after single after single after single led to a 4-4 game and loaded bases with John Mayberry Jr. at the plate. He thankfully came through and sent the crowd home with a thrilling come from behind win. If only we could have had the same result in October of 2011.
1.) 2010- Win 11-1 over the Washington Nationals
We have reached the number one spot and it is sad to look back on this now and think "What could have been?" This was the start of the Roy Halladay era on a frigid April 5th. Nationals Park was where we were and after giving up one run in the first the Halladay we thought we were getting showed up. Seven innings with 9 strikeouts and 1 earned run. The Phillies chased John Lannan in the 4th, and then Placido Polanco put an exclamation point on the game by hitting a wall scraping grand slam to left. We looked unstoppable- until we were eventually stopped.
Happy Opening Day everyone.