Aaron Nola is on the mound as the Phillies host the Braves today at 3:05pm
The day has finally come. After a shortened 2020 season, an offseason that felt like forever, and Spring Training down in Clearwater, the Philadelphia Phillies baseball season finally kicks off today at Citizens Bank Park against the division favorite Atlanta Braves at 3:05pm. The Braves are a team looking to four-peat as National League East division champions. No team has won four consecutive titles since the Phillies won five consecutive titles from 2007-2011. The 2011 season, as we all know, is the last time that the Phillies made the playoffs. Although the Phillies are being overlooked by almost everyone who covers baseball, the expectations for this team are high, thanks to a very deep offensive lineup and vast improvements to the bullpen and back-half of the starting rotation.
During the offseason, the Phillies brought back the Best Catcher in Baseball, JT Realmuto, and shortstop Didi Gregorius while bolstering their bullpen with new arms such as Archie Bradley, Brandon Kintzler, and Jose Alvarado. They added two veteran pitchers to the back of their rotation in Chase Anderson and Matt Moore. Rhys Hoskins enters this season healthy and Alec Bohm is poised to have a breakout sophomore year after being snubbed in the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2020.
Projected Phillies Lineup
- Andrew McCutchen, LF
- J.T. Realmuto, C
- Bryce Harper, RF
- Rhys Hoskins, 1B
- Alec Bohm, 3B
- Didi Gregorius, SS
- Jean Segura, 2B
- Roman Quinn, CF
- Aaron Nola, P
With a potential first six of Cutch/Realmuto/Harper/Hoskins/Bohm/Didi, the Phillies offense should be explosive. The top of their lineup can rake, and if they can stay hot, the offense won’t be the issue. Bryce Harper headed north to Philly after a fantastic Spring Training in which he batted .343 (12-for-39) with four home runs, eight RBIs, a .477 OBP, .771 SLG, and a 1.249 OPS. The NL MVP candidate will lead the team into the 2021 season in his baseball prime. Harper will make his third consecutive start for the Phillies in right field, who haven’t had a right fielder make three straight season-opening starts in right since Jayson Werth did from 2008-2010.
The biggest worry coming into this season was the depth of pitching, whether that is the starters or relievers. Chase Anderson and Matt Moore will be taking that four and five spot to start the season, and a Zach Eflin breakout season will be happening out of the three hole. Zach Wheeler will remaining in the second position.
The ace of the rotation, the former Cy Young finalist, Aaron Nola. Nola is due for a big year, and that big year starts today. Nola will be making his fourth consecutive Opening Day start, which is the most by a Phillies’ pitcher since Steve Carlton started 10 consecutive Opening Days from 1977-1986. He will face Braves’ Opening Day starter Max Fried, who went 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA last year and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Fried allowed just one run over 10 innings against the Phillies last year.
Projected Braves Lineup
- Ronald Acuña Jr., RF
- Ozzie Albies, 2B
- Freddie Freeman,1B
- Marcell Ozuna, LF
- Travis d’Arnaud, C
- Dansby Swanson, SS
- Austin Riley, 3B
- Cristian Pache, CF
- Max Fried, LHP
Nola finished third in Cy Young voting in 2018, behind deGrom and Scherzer, after an absolute monster of a season for the Phillies. He even found himself into the running for NL MVP towards the end of the season, as he finished thirteenth in that race as well. Posting a 2.37 ERA, with 224 strikeouts, a strikeout to walk ratio of 3.36, and a 9.5 average of strikeouts over 9 innings stat line, Aaron had the best season of his career. The Ace dominates batters with his fastball, changeup, curveball, and sinker. The 4 pitch rotation has been a major success for Aaron, with that curveball being an absolute filthy pitch in his artillery. We had “High Hopes” for Nola moving forward, and his dominance and confidence proved that he is going to be an ace for this team for a long time and he can take a huge step forward by taking down Fried and the Braves today to start the 2021 season.
Last year was tough for everybody. The pandemic hitting, players not knowing if the season was going to happen, or when it was going to start. The MLB played less than half of the usual amount of games in a normal season, and there was sort of an asterisk next to all stats from last year. Although Nola didn’t put up 2018 numbers, he still went out and did his thing, posting a 3.28 ERA with a 12.1 SO/9 ratio. Finishing in the Cy Young Race is always an accomplishment, but we as fans, and even Aaron, knew he could’ve pitched better on the year, as he eventually finished seventh in the race.
Baseball is back to its semi-normal format this year, with a 162 game season being played, a percentage of fans back in the stadium, and more normal vibes all around. The players are ready for this, the coaches are ready for this, and the fans are ready for this. Last year felt like a dream, having to watch all of your favorite athletes from home, with cardboard cutouts sitting in your normal seats. That isn’t going to happen this year, and the best fans in baseball are ready to be back going absolutely insane in the stands.
The Phillies are being overlooked for this upcoming season, and I, unlike many people, have high expectations for this team. Pitching is going to play a huge factor into their success, and the depth of their pitchers and consistency of their offense will tell the story.
Mandatory Credit: Gavin Baker (Icon Sportswire)