Rhys Hoskins said after the Phillies’ exciting season opener what many fans of this team were thinking: “I can’t wait for Saturday.”
Saturday is here, Game 2 of the year and a chance for the Phillies to win their first season-opening series since 2011.
Hopes are high for Nick Pivetta this season. His repertoire is tantalizing and that has been noticed nationally as well. Pivetta had an impressive spring, hitting the upper-90s almost immediately in camp and overpowering hitters in Grapefruit League play with a heater that reached 99.
Pivetta had a 4.77 ERA last season, a mark much too high for a pitcher with his arsenal. He had a strikeout rate last season higher than Aaron Nola, Corey Kluber and David Price. He had a walk rate lower than Gerrit Cole, Blake Snell and Trevor Bauer.
Bottom of the order
In 2016, the Phillies opened the season with Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco batting 1-2-3.
This season, that’s the 6-7-8. On Thursday, those three reached base five times in 12 plate appearances and drove in five of the Phillies’ 10 runs. The Phils are going to win many games if the bottom of the order can produce up to its collective capabilities. With this lineup, they could use more of the .280 batting average/42-double Herrera of 2017 than the player we saw last season.
The beauty of this offense is that it legitimately can be a different guy each game. Hoskins’ grand slam was the most memorable moment from the opener but Franco’s three-run jack — after a full count that included a couple foul balls and Franco laying off a low offspeed pitch — was the most important.
Franco entered the season with a .390 OBP in 21 games in the 8-spot. The sample size is small, but batting eighth forces an NL hitter to be more selective in hopes of turning the lineup over. In the opener, Franco was intentionally walked once and had two different plate appearances reach seven pitches.
Braves’ young staff
In our season predictions, I had the Braves going 79-83. Yes, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. are two of the top five position players in the NL East, but look at Atlanta’s pitching staff.
Julio Teheran, who made his MLB-leading fifth consecutive opening day start for the same team Thursday, is more of a No. 3 or No. 4.
Mike Foltynewicz, the Braves’ ace last season, opened on the injured list with a sore elbow. He’s at least two weeks away from starting in the majors. That will be a situation the Braves carefully monitor all season because they cannot afford to lose him for an extended period.
Saturday and Sunday, the Braves are starting Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright, two rookie right-handers who have combined for one big-league start. The Phillies will have the pitching edge in each game.
In overall talent, the Braves are closer to the Mets than the Phillies and Nationals. Doesn’t mean the Phils will win every series against Atlanta, but this offense should be too much for the Braves’ staff in more than a few of their 19 meetings.
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