Czerwonka: Recapping the Phillies’ hectic opening weekend

Opening Day graphic. - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

A new baseball season has started, meaning a new adventure for the Philadelphia Phillies, who kicked things off by playing against their division rival, the Atlanta Braves, in a three-game series at the Bank. 

Well, how did they start the 2024 season?

Game One 

Everything had been set in stone. You had your ace pitching, home field advantage, Charlie Manuel returning to Citizens Bank Park and throwing the first pitch, and the 20th anniversary of Citizens Bank Park.

But it wouldn’t be until the bottom of the 5th that the 0-0 deadlock was broken. With Bryson Stott at 2nd, Brandon Marsh came up to bat and crushed a ball to left-center field to ultimately put the Phillies on top. 

Zach Wheeler had an amazing game as well, going for six strong and scoreless innings, with five strikeouts and only five hits. 

Wheeler eventually got pulled, and that’s when the downfall started. 

Matt Strahm came in for Wheeler and gave up hits to Michael Harris II, Orlando Arcia, and Adam Duvall– who had to come in for Sean Murphy, who was injured on an at-bat. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Duvall’s first at-bat was a big one, as he hit a double to tie the game at two.

In the top of the 8th, Jose Alvarado would come in to hopefully shut down the Braves offense, but in an unusual performance, he did just the opposite of that. Alvarado looked entirely different from his usual dominant self and allowed the Braves to load the bases, which came with a downpour of runs. He had the final stat line of 0.2 innings, with three hits and two walks, with a five ERA.

RHP Connor Brogdon came in for the lefty and didn’t do much better either, allowing two more runs to come across the plate, along with a hit and two walks.

The final score of the first game for the Phillies was a crushing 9-3 blow, although the team still had the chance to bounce back the next day and even the series up. 

Game Two

It was now Aaron Nola’s day to shine, as he looked to prove why he got the big bucks in the off-season. 

Or, he’ll just have the worst performance he’s ever had in the entirety of his career.

Right off the bat, Ronald Acuna Jr hit a ball that took a few weird bounces over to third baseman Alec Bohm, who tried to barehand the ball but missed it.  Then with Acuna on first, Ozzie Albies came up to bat and when Nola left a changeup over the middle of the plate. Albies made him pay, and before Nola even threw five pitches, it was already 2-0 Braves. 

In the literal next at-bat, Braves third baseman Austin Riley popped up in foul territory over towards first and headed towards the stands. Harper, who was tracking the ball the whole time, didn’t know where the railing was and flipped into the camera well. 

The Phillies did respond in the bottom half of the inning, as Kyle Schwarber got on via a leadoff single, and then got to second after Harper drew a walk. From there, both Schwarber and Harper advanced 90 feet after a double steal, which was Schwarber’s first stolen base since the 2022 World Series.

J.T. Realmuto drew a walk, and it eventually got to Nick Castellanos and with a 2-2 count, and two outs. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman blew a call, which resulted in Castellanos drawing a walk, cutting the deficit in half. With the bases still loaded, Stott came up to bat and knocked the ball to left field, scoring two more runs. 

The Phillies once again had a lead, but it wouldn’t last much longer.

The Braves just kept getting to Nola, and the hits wouldn’t stop. In the next two innings, the Braves scored five runs, making it 7-3. Eventually, Realmuto would hit a solo shot that would make it 7-4.

This was the story of the entire game. Nola would finally get pulled, going 4.1 innings pitched with a horrid 12 hits, seven earned runs, a walk, and three strikeouts. The bullpen came in and didn’t do much better as Seranthony Dominguez, Luis Ortiz, and Brogdon all allowed more runs. 

What’s intriguing is how Marsh wasn’t in the lineup for the game, even though the day before, he was the reason the Phillies had their lead at that one point.

This was a massacre of a game, as the final score was 12-4, even worse than the first game somehow.

Game Three

The Phillies had to make some kind of statement, and not get swept by their division rivals in the first series of the season. This time though, they were without Harper, Stott, and Marsh (once again).

For this game, Ranger Suarez was on the mound and looked solid.

But I can’t lie, the first two at-bats of the game looked dreadful, and very similar to the previous game. It started with Acuna getting on base, and then Albies hitting another home run to left field. 

Once again, the lead was cut in half in the bottom of the first inning, after Schwarber hit a solo shot. 

The Braves would extend their lead when Duvall drove in Austin Riley. When Duvall was sliding into 2nd, Whit Merrifield was able to make the tag, and after a review of the play, Duvall was called out. 

The Phillies would load the bases in the bottom of the 5th, but almost unsurprisingly, they didn’t really capitalize on the situation and only got one run out of it. 

But it wasn’t until the bottom of the 7th inning that things finally started to turn around for the Fightins. Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh came in to pinch-hit. Stott drew a walk, and Marsh struck out.

With the struggling Johan Rojas coming up to the plate, he grounded out into a double play. But thanks to the center fielder’s speed, and after another review of the play, he beat out the play at first. Right after, Schwarber started the eventual rally with a hit and a single out into center field. Trea Turner was next, hitting a base hit to right field, and once again thanks to Rojas’ speed, was able to score. Bohm was then able to score both of them after Duvall dropped the ball in right field, and once again, the Phillies were in the lead. 

Thankfully, the bullpen was able to shut the door on the Braves, as Alvarado had a bounce-back performance in the top of the 9th, and got the save as well. 

Even though it most definitely was not a perfect week, it was good to end the opening series on more of a positive note and see the team rally from behind to get the win. 

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