Phillies

Phillies

How ironic it was to look up and down the Phillies' opening day lineup and see filled-out box score lines ... except for the three-spot.

The Phillies dropped 10 runs on the Braves Thursday at Citizens Bank Park and Bryce Harper wasn't responsible for much of it. He went 0 for 3 with a walk, a run scored and two strikeouts in his Phillies debut. He added an outfield assist, throwing out Nick Markakis at second base.

Yet despite his quiet day, Harper did make his presence felt in the Phillies' deep, potent batting order. In the fourth inning with Jean Segura on third base and nobody out, Braves pitcher Julio Teheran struck out Harper and Rhys Hoskins before later encountering trouble and surrendering two runs.

Teheran needed 18 pitches in that spot to get through Harper, Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto (walk), which set the table for Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez to deliver first-pitch RBI singles. It gave the Phillies a lead they wouldn't relinquish in a 10-4 win (see observations).

The seventh was the inning Phillies fans will remember for a long time. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Braves manager Brian Snitker immediately called for an intentional walk of Harper. Rhys Hoskins followed with an absolute blast to left field, a no-doubt grand slam that sent a delirious South Philly crowd into a frenzy.

It's far from the last time Harper will be intentionally walked, and in Hoskins' very first chance to make the opponent pay for picking that brand of poison, he delivered. 

 

"I was just fired up for him," Harper said of his teammate and buddy. "We talked about it all spring long — if I walk, the guy behind me doing damage like he did. That's what it's all about, getting on base, making the other team pay for walking me or whatever. Throw him a down-and-in heater and he absolutely parked it to left.

"I find joy in what my teammates do and being able to see his success, what he did today in that spot ... (Anthony) Rendon did it a lot last year, seeing Rhys do it this year, awesome."

The depth of the Phillies' lineup is striking and it was apparent in Game 1 of 162. The old guard certainly produced, with Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Herrera and Hernandez driving in nine runs, but the new guys showed off their skill sets as well. 

Andrew McCutchen's combo of power and plate selection was apparent as he led the game off with a home run and walked to start the seventh-inning rally.

Segura showed off his speed with two groundballs that forced quick, errant throws to first base. Both times, Segura got to second base on the throw. Both times, he came around to score.

Harper forced stress on Teheran in the fourth and forced the Braves' hand in the seventh, which set things up for Hoskins' heroics.

Realmuto didn't do much at the plate but displayed his MLB-leading pop time by throwing Freddie Freeman, who had a good jump, out trying to steal second.

"There's just not a deep breath, there's not a breath of fresh air for the opposing pitcher," Hoskins said. "They decided to walk Bryce tonight. Sometimes they'll walk him and they'll walk me and then you have to face J.T.

"You walk Cutch, you have to face Segura. You walk Odubel, you have to face Cesar and then Franco. I think we saw it the whole game from everybody in the lineup. Everybody had great at-bats and it's pretty contagious. It was fun and I can't wait for Saturday."

The Phillies scored 11 runs combined in their last four opening days. But that was when guys like Franco, Hernandez and Herrera were being relied on as the offensive centerpieces. Now, they're the 6-7-8 of what could be the best lineup in the National League. 

"It's scary good," Hoskins said.

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