What a start to the season for the fighting Phils.
The Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves 2-1 on Sunday behind another incredible pitching performance. Although it got a little shaky at the end, Philadelphia hung on with some clutch hits to complete the sweep of their division rival. Here are some of the highlights and observations I collected off today and the whole series in general.
Zach Eflin's Dominance
After a great start last season, Zach Eflin continued his strong performances today with an absolute monster stat line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 8 K’s, 1 BB. This would be impressive against any team, but we must take into account this is also against one of the strongest lineups in baseball. The Phillies are going to need a solid guy behind Wheeler and Nola; and Eflin has been showing that he will be able to fill that role so far. Eflin said after the game he takes much inspiration on following the great performances of the two aces who pitched gems before him.
The Bullpen Looks Good?
Yes, I know it is early but the Phillies bullpen has pitched to near perfection so far this season. Today, Jose Alvarado had a 10 pitch 8th inning after somewhat struggling in his first outing. Then Hector Neris followed that up with a stressful but solid 9th to finish yet another game. I am especially pleased about Neris' performances so far, as he was able to close out every single game this series(while doing it against the top of the order twice). That should bode very well for his confidence going into the next series against New York. Archie Bradley has not faltered at all so far, pitching absolutley perfect in both of his outings so far. We should see more of him tomorrow against a solid Mets lineup. Lastly, as mentioned earlier, Jose Alvarado bounced back from his first performance and showed lots of promise today. This doesn't even mention Connor Brodgon, who pitched the 10th in Game 1 and didn't give up any runs.
Alec Bohm has Ice in his Veins
Although Bohm has struggled slightly at the plate this series, he has gotten hits when it matters. This is mostly about today's game, but we cant forget his sac fly in Game 1 that made the difference in the final score. But, Alec Bohm came to the plate in the 9th with the game tied at 1, and knocked in a RBI Single to all but clinch the win. Last year he had somewhere around a .400 batting average with Runners in Scoring Position, and it looks like that trend may continue this season.
The Offense Has Struggled
I promise you I did not want to mention any negatives in this recap, but this was too glaring to ignore. Although they have put up enough runs each game to get the W, it could have been much easier to get that win if the offense was more consistent. Guys like Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm(not off the hook just because he got the winning run) have all been really poor at the plate to start the year. So should we be concerned about this? I'll say no. Obviously it is disappointing, but the Phillies have also been really unlucky at points. For example, Bryce Harper has had some incredibly hard hit balls that have ether just come short of the fence or lined right to an infielder. I'm not trying to make excuses, just saying it hasn't been all terrible. The bottom line is you are going to have to put up more then 9 runs in total when you are in the NL East. These pitchers will have off days, and Matt Moore/Chase Anderson are still big question marks. Next game will be a huge test with Jacob DeGrom coming to town for his first start of the year.
PS- Loved seeing Andrew Knapp grab the Phillies first Homer of the season. Who would've guessed?
Next For the Phillies?
After their great 3-0 start, the road does not get any easier. Tomorrow the Phillies begin a 3 game home stand against the New York Mets. This will be the Mets first game of the season, after their first series was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Nationals. The expected starters are Jacob DeGrom and Matt Moore; the latter of whom will be making his Phillies debut. The Phillies did themselves a lot of favors jumping out to a 3-0 start, but they cannot take their foot of the gas. If they want to be competing to win the NL East, they have to think of every game as a playoff game. The game starts at 7:05 on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Phillies will remain first in the NL East regardless of any result today or tomorrow. 162-0 is still alive folks.