It's very easy to define baseball games by their endings. This is due mostly to the concept of "wins" and "losses" that determine placement in the standings, a team's overall accomplishments, and eventually the direction of various people's careers and lives.
In the case of the 2016 Phillies, it's even easier to look at four straight losses to start the season and chalk them up to a bad bullpen and an empty offense. That wouldn't be wrong. But before each of the games' unappealing endings, they had to begin, and that is typically when this team has been at its best. Which still isn't very good, but come on.
Our first journey through the new Phillies' rotation, though bumpy at times, mostly during Charlie Morton's start, has not been overly tumultuous.
- Jeremy Hellickson: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 SO, 0 BB
- Aaron Nola: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 8 SO, 0 BB
- Jerad Eickhoff: 5 IP, 2 ER, 3 SO, 2 BB
- Charlie Morton: 3.2 IP, 6 ER, 3 SO, 2 BB
- Vince Velasquez: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 9 SO, 3 BB
Hellickson, Nola, and Velasquez all made completely encouraging starts, putting the team in a position to win, which on one occasion, they actually did. Of course, that position for this team needs to be more than a one-run lead when the bullpen gate starts swinging. Bu these guys can't do everything, though they have tried: Eickhoff, Hellickson, and Morton all made contributions to the offense. Eickhoff, after doubling off Jacob deGrom, eventually became the Phillies' first successfully knocked in runner from scoring position.
Nola and Velasquez's starts are obviously the most fun to look at, as they spent a few innings assaulting opposing lineups with K's and Nola not even issuing any free passes. Velasquez has some of us especially hot and bothered with his infectious enthusiasm. Thanks to Hellickson and Nola, it was two days into the season before the Phillies gave up a walk. Most 1-4 teams can't brag that their starting pitchers have combined to give up less than ten runs in five games and 27.2 innings.
Then there was the Morton start. His first time through the Reds lineup, he appeared to be in control, keeping the ball on the ground and systematically depleting the Cincinnati bat arsenal. But his stuff wasn't so perplexing that the Reds hadn't figured it out their second time through the lineup and in time he fell victim to a Harang-style shelling.
In short, we've made it through one full pass of starting pitching, and the results have been positive, which is more than you can say about several other critical components of this team.