Jimmy Rollins was in the outfield with Gregg Murphy today, filming Bryce Harper’s first at-bat on his phone. Later, he joined the broadcast team in the studio, an obvious and enjoyable roster addition. During the game, he may have been out of uniform, but his presence was felt.
First, Andrew McCutchen did one of Rollins’ favorite things to do and smashed a lead-off home run to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead on Julio Teheran and the Braves. Several innings later, Rhys Hoskins grand slammed off the Braves’ bullpen, giving the Phillies a 10-3 lead and pretty much ending Atlanta’s afternoon, something no Phillies player had done since... Jimmy Rollins, in 2014.
It was appropriate that the past was so present in what the Phillies were able to do today, because these new Phillies conjured up quite easily the feelings of those of us who watched the 2007-11 teams, while still being very much themselves. You got the sense that everybody was where they were supposed to be, a lot of them for the first time: The new additions played important parts, but also the guys who have been here—Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, and Maikel Franco—got the offensive engine started after Cutch’s bomb, with Franco dealing the Braves an especially cruel jab on a three-run shot in the sixth. Herrera and Hernandez had come through with a pair of singles to build the Phillies 3-1 lead.
The Braves bit back, of course, when Aaron Nola left the game. Nola pitched well, logging eight strikeouts. The curve looked good, the change-up showed up later, and the fastball seemed to find more life as the innings went on. But when he got yanked and replaced with Hector Neris—so many choices, but Gabe went to Neris—a two-run shot from Matt Joyce cut the lead to 6-3.
Thankfully, Rhys Hoskins and the Phillies answered. Loudly.
Bryce Harper strode to the plate, 0-for-3 on the day. Cutch and Jean Segura had reached base ahead of him, and the Braves weren’t going to even bother, despite their success in keeping the Phillies newest, shiniest weapon silent all day. They walked Harper to load the bases for... the Phillies clean-up hitter. And if not him, then J.T. Realmuto. And if not him, then Odubel Herrera. This team is... loaded.
Well, Hoskins did exactly he was supposed to do: Crush a grand slam to give the Phillies a seven-run lead and send the ballpark into such a frenzy that the Braves’ broadcast feed was jostled off the air due to technical difficulties. That was all the Phillies needed—that, and a line drive caught by Pat Neshek in the ninth that he used to double up a runner—to improve on last year’s opening day performance.
Today was all about witnessing the depth of this lineup and how terrifying it could be moving forward. On a good day, there’s no one here you’re happy to face as an opposing pitcher; a notion that came to life after the Harper walk in the seventh. With three home runs on the day, tying a franchise opening day record, there was one message sent loud and clear from these Phillies: Hope you like dingers.
That’s a 10-4, Phillies.