Today was supposed to be a day of excitement. After all, the Phillies were able to unveil their shiny new toy for the rotation when Zack Wheeler took the mound for the first time as a Phillie, and he was the one that would give the fanbase a jolt. While Wheeler was very good today, the team ended up getting said jolt from a completely unexpected source.
In the first inning, after Wheeler used his plus stuff (something the #2 starter for the Phillies hasn’t had in a while) to work around a leadoff single, the Phillies’ offense got two runners on when Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper worked back to back walks, heightening some expectations about how the inning would unfold. However, Caleb Smith, the starter for the Marlins, took care of J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura with relative ease. Let’s just say things were starting to look grim as many watching weren’t happy with the offense’s performance so far.
Gregorius’ leadoff home run in the second inning gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead, but a huge opportunity was wasted when the team loaded the bases with two out for Bryce Harper. He went down looking and the anxiety continued all over again.
This was something to be feared as the season began. A lot of baseball people don’t lend much credence to the whole “the pitching is ready before the hitting” theory of beginning a season, but it’s something that always seems to rear its ugly head. Here in Philadelphia, it was especially reasonable because Smith (3 IP, 6 BB, 1 R) tried his best to give the game to the Phillies, but they just didn’t seem to be able to get that big hit they needed early on.
Luckily for them, Wheeler seemed to be on cruise control himself. Through the first four innings, Wheeler dominated the Marlins, facing only the minimum number of batters thanks to two nifty double plays from the middle infield. In the fifth, he got into a bit of trouble when he allowed an RBI single to Miguel Rojas that tied the game at 1, but again the double play helped him out, getting Chad Wallach to ground into an inning ending twin killing to kept the game knotted. Facing a Marlins pitcher in Nick Neidert who was making his major league debut, the team still couldn’t do much. Facing Alex Vesia, another guy making his major league debut, they still couldn’t do much.
Luckily, Joe Girardi had a secret weapon.
When the pregame lineups were announced, an eyebrow or two was raised.
I feel like I'm ultra-critical right now and I know he had a million hits during Summer Camp but, of all the Phils' options for DH, it's Phil Gosselin? https://t.co/NXCPZTnmcB— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) July 25, 2020
Turns out, Girardi must’ve used his fancy analytics to find that unearthed gem of a reason for inserting Gosselin into the lineup.
That, or he’s just been hitting the crap out of the ball lately.
With two outs and a man on first, Gosselin stepped to the plate and delivered that big hit the team needed.
From there, Wheeler helped himself. When he struck out Garrett Cooper for the final out of the seventh inning, his day was completed and what a day it was. Seven innings, five hits, two walks, four strikeouts and only one run allowed. It was a pretty impressive debut from the newly baptized father, hopefully a sign of things to come.
Then came the real fun.
The middle of the lineup for this team can be dangerous. When Hoskins and/or Harper are getting on base, the team has Realmuto lurking. Today, he lurked.
The calls to sign him are only going to get louder now that Mookie Betts has re-signed in Los Angeles.
But hey, they weren’t done. After a fine fielding play by Gregorius to end the 8th in which a ball nearly killed him, Gosselin did it again, homering to right centerfield, making the score 7-1.
It was an impressive game for the Malvern Prep graduate, one that wasn’t really expected. In a season like this, where every game really, really matter, the Phillies will need to have these unexpected games in which an unknown plays the superhero. Today, that was Gosselin.
Postgame, Girardi was very happy to talk about how well Wheeler did, and especially about Gosselin’s contributions.
“He was about as good as you can be.”
On McCutchen’s play:
“To see how well he was moving was really good for all of us...That’s a tone setter.”
“Someone described it very well, he was 24 for his last 12. He made me look very smart today, for which I am very thankful.”
A great first win for the team.