Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park hasn’t been a joyous time for the Philadelphia Phillies over the past decade. In the 10 home openers since the franchise opened up the new stadium, the Phillies have come away victorious on only three occasions.
Not only have the Phillies lost seven home openers at CBP, but they’ve done so in pretty poor fashion. Of those seven losses, four have been by deficits of at least four runs. Arguably the worst Opening Day performance came last season when the Phillies were routed by the Kansas City Royals, 13-4.
The Phillies’ stretch of poor play in home openers extends far beyond the beginnings of Citizens Bank Park, however. Since the franchise began play in 1883, the Phillies are a combined 62-67-2 on Opening Day in Philadelphia. This includes a particularly poor stretch of play since 1980 in which the Phillies have compiled a record of 13-21.
Yet the Phillies’ struggles in the season’s first game at Citizens Bank Park don’t seem to be because of offensive performance. Since 2004, Philadelphia’s core of veterans — Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins — are a combined 32-for-87 (roughly a .368 average) in the Phillies’ home opener. The team as a whole has scored an average of four runs in each of the 10 games.
Instead, the problem appears to stem from the Phillies’ pitching and specifically the efforts from the starters. Philadelphia’s starting pitchers in CBP’s home opener the last 10 years are surrendering an average of seven hits while allowing close to four earned runs. On only three occasions has the starter been able to register a full six innings of work.
With that said, it’s very important for Kyle Kendrick to turn in a solid performance today. The Phillies aren’t struggling offensively right now; they rank fourth in the majors in both batting average and on base percentage, as well as 11th in runs scored. They’ll be able to score some runs but can’t afford a poor outing reminiscent of what’s occurred over the past ten opening days. The Phillies are a better team when playing with the lead, and Kendrick must help them establish that by commanding the strike zone early on.
For a team that many thought would struggle at the plate this year, it’s instead the Phillies’ pitching that must step up if they expect to buck the trend of their Opening Day losses.