Major League Baseball Opening Day has now come and gone and the Philadelphia Phillies find themselves in a tie for first place. Just as everyone suspected, the Phillies won 14-10 in a true pitcher’s duel won by Cliff Lee, who gave up a career-high eight earned runs in only 5.0 innings of work.
The Phillies didn’t do much of anything at the plate throughout the spring and struggled to produce base hits and score runs. As Jimmy Rollins said when asked about spring training, “who cares?” They lead the league in runs (14), home runs (3), slugging percentage (.659) and on base plus slug percentage (1.119).
Since the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks played their opening series in Australia and have a few extra games under their belt, the Phillies are only behind them in at bats (45), hits (17), total bases (29) and RBI (13).
Rollins silenced the press and his critics (for now) who wanted to trade him during the spring in the second inning when he blasted a gland slam home run into the right field bleachers. The start was Rollins’ 14th straight Opening Day start for the Phillies, giving him the NL record for most consecutive Opening Day starts at shortstop for one team.
Although Lee had a great spring, he did not have his best stuff yesterday afternoon. He was roughed up for 11 hits, eight earned runs and lasted only 5.0 innings. In 2012, Lee did not get his first win until July 4 and that included a game where he pitched 10.0 innings and gave up zero runs.
Lack of offense was not the Phillies’ only weakness entering the 2014 season; the bullpen, specifically the back end, was in question as well. Well yesterday, likely setup man Antonio Bastardo pitched 1.1 innings and gave up just a walk, retiring the remaining batters he faced. Jonathan Papelbon then came in for the 9th inning and closed the door, sitting them down in order on just 12 pitches and recorded a strikeout.
Through the first day of the season, I think it is safe to say that we can crown the Phillies as the 2014 World Series Champions.
Let’s be serious, though. April Fools’ Day came a day early for the Phillies. While yesterday’s game was fun to watch, there is no way they can continuously produce at this level, Lee won’t end the season with a 14.40 ERA and the Phillies’ back end of the bullpen will likely have their fair share of hiccups. There are many positive signs as a result of Opening Day, but there are still 161 games left to play. But hey, there’s always a chance.