For all the talk in spring training about the depth and power potential of the Phillies' offense, did you really foresee the opening series going that well?
The Phillies dominated the Braves, outscoring them 23-11 in the sweep. Now, the Phils move on to Washington for a quick two-game series against the Nationals, while the Braves attempt to regroup against the Cubs.
The way this series played out will leave a sour taste in the mouths of the Braves, whom the Phillies won't face again for 65 games. Perhaps by then, Atlanta's rotation is filled out more. The Phils faced rookie right-handers on Saturday and Sunday and neither pitched well, combining for nine walks in 7⅔ innings. The Braves' bullpen also looks shaky. This is a team that could use Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel, if not both. We'll see.
Formidable first five
The Phillies' 1-5 hitters in this series reached base in 29 of 64 plate appearances. That's a .453 on-base percentage from Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto.
One of the only easy trips through the top of the Phillies' order came in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday, when the Phils had a 5-1 lead, were freezing in the sub-40-degree South Philadelphia night and ready for the game to be over.
Immediately, that group up top showed off their skill sets:
• McCutchen's calling cards are plate selection and pop. He hit two homers and walked three times in the opening series.
• Segura is known for his ability to hit the ball to all fields and use his speed to pick up additional hits. While his series wasn't the strongest overall, Segura did hit two infield singles, both of which forced errant throws, resulting in him getting to second base and eventually scoring. No player has more infield hits since the start of 2018.
• Harper hit the two bombs, as well as a double. The 465-foot blast he hit off Jesse Biddle Saturday was the second-farthest hit ball of Harper's career, behind only a 473-footer he hit off Nick Pivetta in D.C. last May.
• Hoskins reached base in 8 of 12 plate appearances. He is going to bat with so many runners in scoring position. Pitchers know they have to be careful with him, and Hoskins has the plate selection to lay off borderline pitches, which should result in very high RBI and walk totals. Last season, Hoskins had 96 RBI and 87 walks. He should push well past 100 RBI this year and could reach triple-digits in walks as well.
• Realmuto was maybe the most important player in Game 2. His RBI single put the Phillies on the board when they trailed 3-0, then his two-run homer gave them a lead they'd hold onto. He also threw out three of the six Braves who attempted a stolen base.
• The Phillies walked in 17.9% of their plate appearances in the opening series, highest in the majors. The MLB average so far is 9.4%.
Neshek continues to be nasty
People are slow to give up on a narrative ingrained in their head, even when it's no longer true. Too many Phillies fans still have this idea that Neshek refuses to pitch back-to-back days and that he can only come in for a batter or two at a time.
Neither is true.
With three more scoreless outings against the Braves, Neshek has been scoreless in 69 of his 76 career appearances as a Phillie — 91%.
Only two of those 76 outings lasted one batter.
Neshek threw 34 pitches in his three outings this weekend, striking out three and allowing two of nine men to reach base.
He is an extremely important, if underrated, Phillie. He will oftentimes be the bridge to the Seranthony Dominguez-David Robertson duo, the man the Phillies turn to against a tough power hitter, or both.
Neshek has a 1.81 ERA in 104 appearances since 2017. It's the best ERA in baseball over that span, with Kimbrel next at 2.06.
Good start for Arrieta
Jake Arrieta needed to work hard for his victory Sunday night but he bared down when he needed to, allowing just one run in six innings despite six walks.
Arrieta on Sunday was the first Phillies pitcher since Cole Hamels in April 2013 to walk at least six batters but not allow more than one run.
While it could be argued that Arrieta didn't have his best stuff Sunday night ... it was pretty damn good. His sinker had ridiculous movement, as it typically does. It moves both vertically and horizontally, and sometimes that results in Arrieta yanking it out of the strike zone. He'll have bouts of wildness, but he has the stuff and experience to be effectively wild, which at times can be more difficult for a hitter than a pitcher who pounds the strike zone.
It was a step in the right direction for Arrieta, who looked like he might be in for a short night when he needed 23 pitches to get out of the first inning.
One final thought
Stop shifting against Freddie Freeman!
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