Prime time baseball in Philadelphia! The Phanatic in the TV booth! Cheesesteaks devoured on-air by the ESPN crew! Something called “whiz wit sauce,” according to Philadelphia expert Matt Vasgersian! Three games into the season, and already, the Phillies are at the center of baseball at its finest.
Going into tonight’s game, the Phillies offense had been as productive as promised, taking no prisoners in the first two games against the Braves, who have appeared helpless to stop them. They had outscored the Braves 18-11 by the time they scored their first run tonight. Like on opening day, it came in the form of an Andrew McCutchen home run in the bottom of the third, tying the game back up after Jake Arrieta’s early command issues had allowed a run to score on a passed ball. Braves rookie starter Kyle Wright wasn’t faring too much better than the veteran Arrieta, and in fact got himself into plenty of trouble in the fifth.
The at first muttered but now shouted descriptor of the Phillies is “deep,” referring to the volume of threats in their new-look lineup. Some hitters are more fearsome than others, but in general, as an opposing pitcher, you’re not going to be able to walk your way around anyone much, given who may be batting behind them. It’s a hard lesson that Wright learned tonight when he tried to address the middle of the Phillies order by giving them nothing to hit. It kept them off the scoreboard briefly—he also hit Jean Segura with a pitch during this sequence—but Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins were each patient at the plate. With two runners on, Harper loaded the bases while Hoskins pushed a run across. J.T. Realmuto added another run with a sac fly.
The Phillies still had only two hits at this point, but that would change. The thing everybody was in the stadium to see happen happened in the seventh, when Harper boomed his second home run as a Phillie into the outer reaches of space. Braves reliever Shane Carle, after being victimized himself by Harper, greeted Hoskins with a pitch that tickled slugger’s torso. Hoskins was, somehow, not laughing as he went to first base and inexplicably umpire Rob Drake took the act even more personally, ejecting Carle without hesitation. This may have set the stage for a season of scowling and chirping between these two dugouts. A Maikel Franco single rolled another run past the Braves, giving the Phillies the 5-1 lead with which they would end the game.
Arrieta got eaten up by walks, issuing six free passes—but only half as many hits—and surviving his control issues by keeping the Braves from getting their base runners in more than just the one time. Adam Morgan, Pat Neshek, and Hector Neris covered the last three frames with a combined one hit and zero runs.
Even Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez, who each went 0-for-4 tonight, were hitting line drives for outs (though Herrera’s first AB of the game in the first with the bases loaded was... undisciplined). Jake Arrieta had a long AB against Wright, driving a liner to center that wound up caught by Ender Inciarte. Tonight was another lesson in what we have in this Phillies team: A lineup formidable up and down, no matter what time they play.