New season, same old Phillies struggles against the Miami Marlins

New season, same old Phillies struggles against the Miami Marlins

New season, same old struggles against the Miami Marlins.

The Phillies lost their season opener to the Marlins, 5-2, on Friday night at Citizens Bank.

The Phils' offense was feeble. It produced just five hits. One of them was an infield hit and another a check-swing single. 

Didi Gregorius homered for the Phillies' first run. The Phils' other run was unearned.

Aaron Nola didn't pitch badly, but he couldn't hold the Marlins off in the sixth inning and he paid for a mistake 0-2 curveball.

The Marlins lost 105 games last season but played the Phillies tough, winning 10 times in 19 meetings. Had the Phils played better against the Marlins last season, they may have had a winning season. Instead, they went 81-81.

While the Phils struggled against the Marlins last season, the rest of the NL East cleaned up on them. The division-winning Braves and wild-card Nationals both went 15-4 against the Marlins last season while the third-place Mets went 13-6.

Nola's night

One bad inning did him in. He issued a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Miguel Rojas in the top of the sixth then two batters later gave up a tie-breaking, two-run homer Jesus Aguilar on an 0-2 curveball that stayed in the strike zone too long. Nola then allowed a double to Corey Dickerson and he came around to score on wild pitch by reliever Ramon Rosso.

Nola walked one and struck out seven over 5⅓ innings.

Tough debut

Manager Joe Girardi pulled Nola at 79 pitches after he gave up the double to Dickerson. The Phils were down just 3-1 at the time. Girardi went to Rosso and the unproven right-hander struggled in his big-league debut. The hard-throwing right-hander showed plenty of power, but command was a problem. He wild-pitched in a run, walked a batter and gave up an RBI double and the Marlins pulled ahead, 5-1 in the sixth.

Hard to believe

Nola is 0-5 in his last over his last eight starts, dating to Aug. 25 of last season. The Phillies are 0-8 in those games.

Good arms

The Marlins are picked to finish in the NL East basement again, but they can be dangerous because they have some good arms in their starting rotation. Hard-throwing right-hander Sandy Alcantara is one of them. He held the Phils to three hits, walked two and struck out seven in 6⅔ innings.

The lineup

Girardi's first lineup had an interesting twist: Rhys Hoskins in the No. 2 hole between leadoff man Andrew McCutchen and No. 3 hitter Bryce Harper.

Girardi talked about reasons for hitting Hoskins second. They weren’t a lot different than Gabe Kapler’s reasons for hitting Hoskins leadoff a handful of times last August.

Hoskins had a difficult second half last season and he tinkered with his setup at the plate in the offseason and again recently.

The Phillies need a rebound season from Hoskins.

Girardi talked about reasons for hitting Hoskins second.

"When you look at Rhys, even with some of the struggles that he had last year, he's an on-base guy," Girardi said. "I want on-base in front of power. But he offers a lot of power as well. So he's an on-base and power guy. And when you start talking about American League lineups, which we are basically playing today (with the DH), there are RBI slots everywhere. But the first time through the lineup we have people who really, really grind out at-bats and could put a pitch count hopefully on their starter. As they get to three, four, five, hopefully it becomes a long inning."

Hoskins was 1 for 3 with a check-swing single, a walk and a strikeout.

Wheels up

Zack Wheeler is ready to make his Phillies debut Saturday night. He will be opposed by Miami lefty Caleb Smith.

Wheeler's status for the start was in doubt until his wife, Dominique, gave birth to the couple's first child, a son, on Monday night. Little Wesley Wheeler arrived five days early, allowing Dad to stay on schedule.

"He was a good sport," Wheeler said with a laugh.

Wesley checked in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces. He and Mom are doing well.

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Jake Arrieta ready to face Yankees on 357 days rest — sort of

Jake Arrieta ready to face Yankees on 357 days rest — sort of

Eight days shy of a year after his last big-league start, Jake Arrieta gets the ball for the Phillies in Yankee Stadium on Monday night.

Arrieta will oppose Yankees ace Gerrit Cole as the Phillies restart their season eight days after their last game.

Since his last start, August 11, 2019 in San Francisco, Arrieta has had elbow surgery, gone through a complete rehab, pitched in spring training, endured a shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ramped up during July summer camp and watched his team play three games then shut down again after the Miami Marlins suffered an outbreak of the virus last weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

With the ballpark closed much of the week, Arrieta and teammate Tommy Hunter found a field in South Jersey and kept their arms loose. Arrieta revved his engines in a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday and believes he can throw 85-plus pitches in his long-awaited season debut Monday night.

"It feels great to finally have a start lined up," he said. "It's been frustrating, but at the same time, I haven't been dwelling on that too much because we are all in a really tough situation having to deal with so many different factors that have kind of derailed the beginning of our season. We knew these were going to be tough times and we're doing the best we can to stay ready.

"I've thrown in a few (simulated) games, I've thrown a bunch of bullpens, extended bullpens to keep the pitch count pretty high. But it's really tough to do unless you're in real-game situations. But I'm in a good spot. I'm going to be able to give my team what we need. I'm really looking forward to getting into a real game finally.

"Physically, I feel pretty close to midseason form as far as the body. There's really no aches and pains, which is something you're accustomed to near midseason. So the body feels pretty fresh, and the feel of all my stuff is there."

The Phillies have yet to announce who will follow Arrieta in the rotation. As if the Phils haven't been through enough with seven postponements, bad weather is steaming up the coast from the south and that could cause more problems with scheduling. Even if Mother Nature cooperates, the Phillies would have to play 57 games in 56 days to play their full 60-game season.

"These are weird times as you know," Arrieta said. "Other teams have been able to play more games than us and haven't been affected schedule-wise as much as we have, but we're not going to complain about it. We can't make any excuses. 

"It would seem that we are at a disadvantage, not being able to play pretty much every day like we're accustomed to. But if you lean too much on that, it could creep into your mind too heavily and could most certainly affect your performance."

The season is just 11 days old and already 33 games around Major League Baseball have been postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. Nonetheless, MLB and the players union remain committed to pushing on with the 60-game season. But given all these starts, stops and postponements, one has to wonder if the season can be pulled off. One has to wonder if there will be a breaking point for the players or the league if the postponements continue to mount.

"I think that we're a ways away from that, based on all the knowledge and the information that I've gathered through the union and through MLB," Arrieta said. "MLB wants to do everything in their power to get this season completed and we do as well. We're committed to doing that.

"I want to see the postseason happen and not have to shut this thing down for good. That would be bad for a lot of reasons. The fans want to see baseball. We want to play. We're going to follow protocols and do everything we can to make sure that happens."

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Amid potentially damaging layoff, is Phillies skipper Joe Girardi angry with Miami Marlins?

Amid potentially damaging layoff, is Phillies skipper Joe Girardi angry with Miami Marlins?

Phillies manager Joe Girardi will set a starting pitching rotation for his team's restart after Sunday's workout.

The Phillies held just their second workout since last weekend Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. Girardi did not name his rotation after that workout because he and pitching coach Bryan Price were still gauging the readiness of arms amid all the starts and stops of this COVID-marred 2020 season. The Phillies still have two starting pitchers, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, who have yet to throw a pitch in official game action and the top two of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will be looking at nine and eight days between starts, respectively, by the time the Phillies resume play against the New York Yankees on Monday night.

On top of this, Phillies hitters haven't seen live pitching with any regularity for the last week.

Good luck in the Bronx. Gerrit Cole could pitch Monday if the Yankees stay on rotation.

"I give our pitchers credit," said Girardi, who, at least publicly, has stayed amazingly upbeat during a trying time. "They've kept up trying to do as much as they could by themselves. I've heard guys throwing baseballs against mattresses and brick walls on the outside of their homes and wherever they are. It's challenging, but we knew that it would be coming into the season. We knew that we had to be somewhat prepared for anything and I think our guys have done a pretty good job of handling that.

"We have to be a little bit cautious because for some of these guys, we were building them up and they were kind of put on hold. Now you have concerns about going back-to-back with relievers for the first time after they were put on hold for a while. I think we'll be cautious a little bit in the beginning. Our starters won't be up to where other teams' starters are that have made two starts and some will be coming up on their third start pretty soon. Our starters won't be there and we just have to deal with it."

Without saying it explicitly, Girardi articulated a flaw in the competitive integrity of this 60-game season. The Phillies played their first three games then, through no fault of their own, were shut down for more than a week because they came into contact with a team that suffered an outbreak of COVID-19. Now, the Phillies will have to somehow shoehorn 57 games into 56 days. There have been multiple reports that some Marlins players ignored MLB protocols for social distancing before playing in Philadelphia last weekend. No Phillies players have tested positive, but the Phils are still paying a price.

Are Phillies players angry at the Marlins?

"I haven't really heard any complaints from our guys, but understand that we don't sit around and talk like we used to. That's just not what we do," Girardi said. "So when we do get a chance, we're pretty much talking about baseball only. I have not heard it, so I can't really tell you exactly how the players feel. I do know that they want to play and they're frustrated that we're not playing right now. They're not blaming anyone, but they want to play. That's what we do. I think our players are handling this great."

How about Girardi? He said he was aware of the reports that the Marlins did not take COVID protocols seriously. He spends significant time every day stressing the importance of protocols to his players. He must be ticked off at the Marlins, right?

"No," Girardi said. "They had one player who had it and then they traveled and they were on buses and planes and no one knew. For me to judge — I could walk in one day and have COVID here and not know it and spread it around."

Girardi said he communicated with some members of the Marlins organization and those people felt "a real sense of guilt and remorse."

Focusing on his own club, Girardi said, "The fortunate thing is it did not spread around our clubhouse. So we just have to make sure our guys are prepared to play Monday and physically they're ready to go. That's my biggest concern."

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