I woke up today feeling excited. Hopeful. Reborn, if you will.
I grabbed my remote, turned on MLB Network, changed into a blue Rhys Hoskins shirtsey, and patiently waited for the clock to read 3:05.
We made it. Opening Day 2021.
Seeing the Phils donning the red-pinstripes on a freshly cut field at Citizens Bank Park with actual humans in the stands was enough to bring a tear to one’s eye.
Although it’s been established that Louisiana native Aaron Nola thrives in warmer temperatures, he was certainly on his game today.
That was until the seventh inning, when Nola surrendered a game-tying, pinch-hit, 2-run home run to...Pablo Sandoval?
Pablo Sandoval 111.5 mph home run szn pic.twitter.com/fdbttYqPoJ— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 1, 2021
Yes, you read that correctly. And no, it is not 2010.
Up until this point, the game was largely in the Phils’ favor as the Braves tried to figure out Nola.
The Phils struck first in their half of the first inning against Atlanta ace Max Fried, with Alec Bohm picking up his first RBI of 2021 on a sac fly to score Andrew McCutchen, who reached on a leadoff, first-pitch single. The Phils tacked on another run in the third inning when J.T. Realmuto (who is going to look fantastic in red pinstripes for the next five years) hit an infield single to score Hoskins, who reached on a double down the left-field line.
Bryce Harper attempted to reach third base on the J.T. single, as Bryce Harper does, which third base umpire Gabe Morales incorrectly called an out. From almost every camera angle, it was obvious Harper was safe; It didn’t look like Austin Riley’s glove even touched him. Unfortunately, the umps blew the call even upon review, upholding it.
The bats were pretty quiet for both teams until the Sandoval blast in the seventh, with multiple runners being left in scoring position over five innings. And would you really be watching a Phils game without several scoring opportunities not being seized on?
Amongst the lifeless offense, Alec Bohm shined defensively at third base. Most notably, he saved two runs from scoring in the sixth inning after jumping up to catch a sharply hit ball from Marcell Ozuna. WHEW.
Nola was subsequently pulled from the game after allowing the game-tying blast, leading to offseason pickup and bullpen newcomer Archie Bradley to make his Phils’ debut. Bradley entered the game with two outs and allowed a walk before getting Ozzie Albies to fly out to center to end the inning.
In the eighth inning, José Alvarado, who had an exciting spring, entered the game for his Phillies debut. And he was determined to make it a memorable one.
Alvarado walked Freddie Freeman to leadoff the inning, struck out Ozuna swinging, surrendered a single to Travis d’Arnaud, struck out Dansby Swanson swinging, and then hit Riley to load the bases with two outs. My heart was pounding, and it was only Opening Day. Thankfully, Alvarado struck out Cristian Pache swinging to conclude the eighth, the score still tied 2-2.
I was pleasantly surprised when I awoke this morning to see Haseley in the starting lineup since Joe Girardi has been so resistant to allow him to face left-handed pitching. Haseley was able to make contact against lefty Tyler Matzek in the sixth inning on a single. However, Roman Quinn was substituted for him in the eighth.
In their half of the eighth, Didi Gregorius was finally able to reach base on a leadoff single after striking out three times. But, no one was able to bring him home. Still a tie game.
Héctor Neris, who will once again be fulfilling the closer role this season, entered the game in the ninth. Neris shutdown the Braves 1-2-3, picking up a strikeout of Ronald Acuña, Jr. and a stellar grab by Gregorius at shortstop to end the inning.
Despite the top of the order due up in the bottom of the ninth for the Phils, they were unable to produce. Connor Brogdon, who had a phenomenal spring, entered the game in the tenth inning with a runner on a second. Brogdon’s appearance ended in exciting fashion on an Ozuna flyout to Quinn, who beautifully threw home to Realmuto to tag Albies out at home. And that’s why he’s the BCIB, folks.
Harper began the bottom of the tenth on second. Bohm moved him over to third on a ground out. Braves reliever Nate Jones elected to intentionally walk Gregorius to pitch to Jean Segura. Well, Segura took that personally. James Cigarettes singled to score Harper. BOOM. PHILS WIN. 162-0 STILL IN PLAY.
The Phils already have an off day tomorrow (rude), so see y’all at 4:05 sharp on Saturday.