The Phillies Week in Review, everything you need to know about the week that was for the Philadelphia Phillies 2017 season.
Phillies 2017 – Week 1 (4/3-9/17)
Even in the light of “Managed Expectations”, it’s hard not to be swept up in the romance of Opening Day. Call it cliché. But, that clean sheet and all those possibilities let the imagination run wild.
The Phillies began their 2017 season with three games against the Cincinnati Reds. Knowing that they would be coming home to face the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals, it seemed imperative that the Phils get as much as they could off the Reds, a team that was saddled with even lower expectations than they were.
If the key to winning this game was a fast start, second baseman Cesar Hernandez clearly got the memo. After working the count full and seeing seven pitches from Reds starter Scott Feldman, Hernandez went deep, becoming the first Phillie to open a season with a dinger since Emmett Mueller in 1938. Michael Saunders tacked on a run with an RBI double later in the inning and Freddy Galvis added a solo bomb in the second as the Phils gave starter Jeremy Hellickson a chance to front-run. The veteran righthander did exactly that, allowing only a third inning sacrifice fly in his first five innings. In the top of the sixth, Reds rightfielder Scott Schebler misplayed the historically light-hitting pitcher’s line drive into an RBI triple. The unexpected sprint seemed to sap Hellickson’s strength and, after he allowed a lead-off double in the bottom half, Manager Pete Mackanin decided to let the bullpen take over. Newcomer Joaquin Benoit effectively finished off the sixth and, much like last season, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris dutifully carried the 4-1 lead to Jeanmar Gomez in the ninth. Gomez, whose brilliant first half last season dissolved into a badly flawed second half, picked up where he left off. He was touched for a two-run homer, but held on for the save. Phillies – 4, Reds – 3
By now, you know the drill … they build in these days off to allow for inclement early spring weather. While the start of Wednesday night’s game would be delayed, the Reds and Phillies would successfully dance between the rain drops to get all three games in completely.
Jerad Eickhoff was considered ‘that other guy’ by many when he was part of the six player package Philadelphia received in exchange for Cole Hamels. But, he has consistently been ahead of the rest of those prospects since arriving here and his knee-buckling curveball has gained notice throughout the league. After a 50-minute rain delay, Eickhoff and Reds starter Brandon Finnegan went to work. Both teams’ bats were silent with Finnegan fanning nine while retiring 19 consecutive Phillies and Eickhoff having struck out five while allowing only three hits, until the bottom of the seventh inning. Phillie killer Joey Votto thumped a 1-0 pitch into the sparse crowd to break the scoreless tie. Zack Cozart added a two-out RBI single later in the frame that chased Eickhoff. The Phillies offense never found itself as only one of the four hits they managed even left the infield. The laughable lack of support that plagued Eickhoff in 2016 appears to have carried over. Reds – 2, Phillies – 0
Clay Buchholz made his Phillies debut in a getaway day matinee against the aptly named Rookie Davis. Buchholz’ efforts were immediately bolstered by Daniel Nava who had been his teammate in Boston for several years. Nava, who homered off the Phils in his first major league at-bat, doubled down on that by homering in each of his first two trips to the plate as a Phillie. After three innings, Buchholz was working with a 4-1 lead. In the fourth, the home team quickly loaded the bases on their way to tying the game at 4-4. The game was now in the hands of the bullpens. In fact, it was so ‘in the hands of the bullpens’ that Cincinnati sent reliever Michael Lorenzen out to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth. You guessed it, he promptly took Adam Morgan deep to break the tie. An inning later, they got to Morgan again when Adam Duvall popped a 2-run tater. The Reds relievers closed things down without incident. Reds – 7, Phillies – 4
The flash and pomp of the Home Opener was set against the backdrop of a cold, grey Friday afternoon in South Philly. The Phillies were looking to win their home opener for the first time since beating the Houston Astros in 2011. Vince Velasquez and his rocket right arm drew the assignment. True to his 2016 form he would throw more pitches than he should, many that were unhittable and a few too many that were very hittable. The visiting Nationals offered reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in opposition. He, too, was true to his 2016 form.
After four innings, Vinny from Philly had piled up 10 strikeouts. Unfortunately, he had also walked three, allowed two-run homers to Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy and thrown 94 pitches. Trailing 4-0, the Phils turned to lefty Joely Rodriguez. Ex-Phillie Jayson Werth tagged him for a three-run jack and sent many of the chilled patrons to the exits. But, even though it was 7-0, it wasn’t over yet.
Scherzer had cruised through the first five innings. But, after allowing an RBI knock to Odubel Herrera in the sixth, he walked the first two hitters in the seventh then threw a wild pitch. The brick wall behind the plate quickly returned the ball to Nats catcher Matt Wieters, who turned and gunned down Brock Stassi at third. He struck out Cameron Rupp for out number two and the Phils mini-rally appeared to be fizzling out. At 98 pitches, Scherzer was then pulled for reliever Sammy Solis. The lefty reliever was greeted with a Galvis double and a two-run homer by Aaron Altherr that made things a little more interesting. It was still 7-4 in the ninth when Galvis smashed a two-run homer of his own to make it 7-6 with nobody out. But, Nats closer Blake Treinen stiffened and the comeback fell just short. Nationals – 7, Phillies – 6
One could only wonder if, in spite of the disappointing loss on Friday, the Phillies bats may have awakened and even built some momentum. The answer to that question came in the form of a 12-run first inning … you read that right, a 12-run first inning … that ruined the big league comeback and 38th birthday of Nats starter Jeremy Guthrie. Phils starter Aaron Nola gratefully accepted the support and was solid through six innings. Andres Blanco spelled Galvis and hit his first dinger of the season. Catcher Rupp popped his first as well and the Phils snapped their three-game losing streak in a big, bad way. Phillies – 17, Nationals – 3
What could possibly follow Saturday’s record setting offensive pyrotechnics? One thing was for sure, with Stephen Strasburg and his career 8-2 mark against the Phils standing in the way, it wasn’t going to be easy. Hellickson was hoping to continue the solid work he had begun on Monday in Cinci. The methodical veteran matched his overpowering counterpart out for out. In fact, after a nine pitch at-bat ended in another RBI hit for Galvis, the home team had a 1-0 second inning lead. It was still 1-0 in the fifth when rookie catcher Andrew Knapp doubled to left for his first big league hit. He later scored when a hustling Hernandez outraced Murphy’s double-clutched throw for an infield hit. Howie Kendrick promptly doubled in Hernandez and Hellickson headed out to start the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead. But, a forearm cramp ended his afternoon prematurely and, like Monday, Benoit took over.
This time Pat Neshek handled the seventh before Neris, once more, handed a three run lead to Gomez. The embattled closer allowed a one-out single to Adam Lind, then got a little careful in walking Werth. That brought the tying run to the plate in Stephen Drew. Gomez whiffed Drew and Dusty Baker sent up Ryan Zimmerman to pinch hit. Zimmerman, who had miraculously survived the season’s first week without suffering a DL worthy injury, crushed a 2-0 fastball into the leftfield seats to tie the game. Gomez managed to get through the inning without further damage. But, he was serenaded with a healthy chorus of boos as he marched off the field. Nava walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Galvis singled, sending Nava to third and, with two outs, Hernandez flared a single in front of Werth for the walk-off and the series win. Phillies – 4, Nationals – 3
Every team in the NL East is now 3-3, except the 1-5 Atlanta Braves. Sunday’s walk-off win was eerily similar to last year’s Week 2 closing win that seemed to propel this team to their surprising start. It would certainly be nice to watch another run like that … even nicer if it didn’t immediately vaporize in a nightmarish month of June. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
After Sunday’s win, Mackanin was asked about Gomez’ status as closer and answered that he would be meeting with the struggling reliever on Monday. That usually means a change is coming.
Looking Ahead –
The New York Mets (and waaaaay too many of their fans) will visit CBP on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the prospect of facing Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler puts any Phillies momentum in serious jeopardy. That is followed by a drive down I-95 to face the revenge-minded Nationals in their yard. Let’s face it, there is never a good time for six straight against the top teams in your division. But, you put your pants on and you go to work. Let’s see what happens.
More Phillies: Jeremy Guthrie And The Phillies Historic 12-Run First Inning
Jinx of the Week –
Week one is in the books and the Philiies have managed to keep one column on the stat sheet conspicuously empty. At the risk of imperiling their clean streak, we must report that this team has not yet committed a fielding error. If that changes in Monday’s first inning, it’s on us. Beyond that, we here at The Cave accept no responsibility.
Cannibal of the Week –
Great American Ballpark PA announcer Joe Zerhusen paused briefly during the player introductions on Monday after saying “… in centerfield … number 37”. He then pronounced the name Odubel as ‘edible’ Herrera. This caused CSN host Michael Barkann to declare the third year centerfielder to be ‘Dee-lish-ous!’ during the post-game show. In Zerhusen’s defense, maybe he thought they were calling him ‘El Dorito’.