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5 great Phillies Opening Day memories

The Phillies have had a hard time starting off on the right foot, but there have been some pretty great Opening Day efforts in recent seasons.

Opening Day is finally here.

For many, the first day of the season is like a holiday. Parents (the cool ones anyway) let their kids off of school to be at the ballyard for Opening Day, and on rare occasions, the Phillies actually win once in a while, although throughout their history, they’ve been on the losing end of Game No. 1 (64-69 franchise record).

But even when the Phils lose, Opening Day is still a sign that spring is here, even if the temperatures remain frigid and the skies threaten with blustery winds and cold, biting rain.

Today, the Phillies open their season in Atlanta. Like themselves, the Braves have been engaged in a rebuild and are doing well in that regard. The starting pitching match-up is a good one, with Aaron Nola going up against Julio Teheran, and there are exciting young players littering both rosters.

It could go down as a classic. It could also go down as an awful 8-2 defeat. The Phillies have had a lot of those in their history, but there have been some gems, too. Here are five of the most memorable Opening Days in recent team history.

2011 - Phillies Walk Off Against Houston

Remember when the Astros were a National League team? And remember when they were terrible and always used to beat the Phils in a late-season series that jeopardized the team’s chances at making the playoffs?

Well in 2011, the last year of that glorious five-year NL East title run, the Phillies welcomed Houston to Citizens Bank Park, and also welcomed back one of their 2008 heroes, Brett Myers, the Astros’ Opening Day starter. Myers was on that day, giving up just one earned run on three hits in seven strong innings, matching zeroes with the great Roy Halladay for the first six innings.

But when the Phils went to the bullpen after six, Houston got to J.C. Romero and David Herndon for three runs, and eventually took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning. The Astros called on their closer Brandon Lyon to hold the two-run lead and give the ‘Stros an Opening Day upset.

Then, the Phillies then paper-cutted them to death.

It was the first of the team’s franchise record 102 wins that season, and a sign of things to come in that last, marvelous year in the sun.

2010 - Roy Halladay’s Debut

It wasn’t quite the year of The Super Rotation, but 2010 marked the first season of Halladay’s tenure with the Phillies. He got the ball on Opening Day in the nation’s capital, and boy did he, and the team, announce their presence with authority.

Halladay went seven innings and struck out nine while giving up just one run on six hits, and newly-signed third baseman Placido Polanco hit a grand slam with 6 RBIs as the Phillies drubbed the hapless Nats 11-1.

1997 - Schilling Dominates

The Phillies were undeniably awful in 1997. In fact, that season was one of the darkest, gloomiest, and most hopeless seasons in recent team history.

They went 68-94, actually outperforming their Pythagorean W-L record by four games. They had one good position player (Scott Rolen). They went through 15 starting pitchers that season, with names like Matt Beech, Garrett Stephenson, Tyler Green and Calvin Maduro all getting at least 13 starts.

However, every five days, the Phillies were competitive because of one man, Curt Schilling. He went 17-11 that season with a 2.97 ERA in a staggering 254.1 innings, piling up 309 strikeouts and just 58 walks, all for a team that finished in dead last. It is one of the least-talked about great seasons in MLB history, comparable to Steve Carlton’s 27-win season for the 1972 Phils.

On Opening Day against the Dodgers, Schilling went eight shutout innings and gave up just two hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts, thoroughly dominating L.A.

For one day in that horrific season, Schilling made the Phillies look like a real, professional baseball team.

It didn’t last.

1993 - Terry Mulholland Flattens Houston

Man, there’s something about playing the Astros on Opening Day that agrees with the Phillies.

The Phils won the pennant in ‘93 and it was clear from the very first game of the season that things were going to be different. In the old Astrodome, Mulholland was flat-out brilliant, tossing a complete game while giving up just one run on four hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Were it not for an error by Juan Bell (who would soon be DFA’d by the team), Mulholland would have had a shutout.

The Phillies would go on to sweep the Astros, and it became obvious 1993 was going to be quite different.

1974 - Young Schmidt Walks It Off

This was the first season the late ‘70s core of Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa and Bob Boone had some success, but at the start of the season, Schmidt was just a struggling 24-year-old power hitter who had hit .196 with 18 homers in 443 plate appearances the season before. On Opening Day at Veterans Stadium against the Mets, Schmidt found himself batting in the No. 8 hole in the lineup.

The pitching match-up featured two legends, Steve Carlton vs. Tom Seaver, and both starters pitched well, with Carlton giving up three runs in five innings of work and Seaver doing a bit better, going seven innings and giving up three runs on eight strikeouts.

The Mets held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the 9th when future Phillie closer Tug McGraw trying to get the final three outs for New York. But Tony Taylor led off the 9th with a single, and after Boone grounded out, Schmidt smoked a game-winning, walk-off two-run shot, just the 20th homer of his career.

Schmidt would go on to hit 528 more and the 1974 Phillies won 80 games for the first time since 1967.

Honorable Mention

In 1994, the Phillies were unable to repeat their pennant-winning success from the previous season, but even if they had, the season would have cancelled anyway. But before the labor strife reached its crisis point, the Phils started the season in Colorado and destroyed the Rockies (in their second year of existence) by a combined score of 32-19 in the three-game series. On Opening Day, the Phils trailed Colorado 6-4 heading into the top of the 8th, then exploded for eight runs and won 12-6, thanks to three Colorado errors and 10 bases on balls.

In 1984, Steve Carlton blanked the Braves in seven innings and Mike Schmidt hit one out. If you went to the ballyard that day, that was pretty much all you needed to see as the Phils blanked Atlanta 5-0.

In 2003, Jim Thome arrived and changed everything, and it started on Opening Day. Against the Marlins, Kevin Millwood pitched well enough and Thome went 3-for-4 with an RBI as the Phillies edged Miami 8-5.