Philadelphia Phillies Return to Play
The Philadelphia Phillies Opening Week took an unexpected turn after the Miami Marlins outbreak of the virus resulted in 19 players testing positive. The Phillies dropped two of three at home to start the year against the Marlins putting their season on pause due to health safety concerns. They had an unfriendly welcome back to the season Monday night, facing Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees, owners of the league’s best record. Let’s look at the Phillies return.
Marlins Series Takeaways
The Phillies disappointment of dropping two of three to the Marlins feels like an eternity ago. Instead, for the past week, they have been upset about not having hometown baseball to watch. Let’s flash back to Opening Day for a minute. Aaron Nola started off strong in his third straight Opening Day start (the first to do so since Roy Halladay). They needed more out of their ace who fell apart in the sixth. Although the pitching was disappointing, the greater concern was the absence of offense by anybody not named Didi Gregorius.
The bats redeemed themselves in Game Two tallying seven runs on seven hits including three homers. The 30th man, Phil Gosselin, showed why he got the nickname “Barrels” accounting for two of those shots. Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler made his much-anticipated Philly debut and was lights-out, gaining the win in seven strong while allowing a lone run and striking out four.
Leading into Sunday’s finale it looked like the Phillies had finally regained momentum especially with their bats. Bryce Harper led a massive first inning with his first long ball of the year. It was a 393-foot missile to right field. Vince Velasquez got the third start after impressing in summer camp. However, he completely blew up allowing four runs in the top half of the second giving up the lead. Philadelphia’s biggest weakness came to the forefront as the bullpen imploded for seven more runs in the 11-6 loss.
“Bye Week” Implications
Fast forward to Monday, the Phillies took the field for the first time since July 26 due to COVID-19 protocol. This was without a single one of their players testing positive. Leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen is reportedly “upset at everything that’s transpired”. He responded to a question by The Athletic’s Jayson Stark saying, “What made me angry was that we, as the Phillies—we were the ones that ended up having to pay for that.
The Phillies have the task of facing the best team in baseball after nearly a week off from activity. On Thursday, July 30 the team shut down all activities at Citizens Bank Park after staff members tested positive. On Saturday, August 1 they were able to resume as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported no positives among players, and optimism that two staff positives, were false positives. Without facing live pitching in the past week, and in a unique league where hitting appears to be down early on, this lineup could be in trouble.
Yankees Series Preview
Originally, the Phillies expected to return to action Tuesday, August 3, giving them extra time to prepare. However, Tropical Storm Isaias expected to hit New York Tuesday altered plans for the mid-week series. Major League Baseball announced Monday that they will play a straight doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday, August 5 instead.
If things were not chaotic enough already, the rain came early, causing an hour-long rain delay in Monday night’s affair. Jake Arrieta got the nod for his first start of the season opposing Cole, who made his third. Very fittingly, the first batter of the game, DJ LeMahieu, took him yard for the 1-0 lead that they never relinquished. Arrieta’s final line was five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. Cole improved to a league-best 3-0 in six one-run innings while allowing a Jay Bruce homer.
The Yankees went into the delay up 6-1 after Gio Urshela mashed his second dinger of the year off Deolis Guerra. The Phillies tacked on two runs late after the delay, giving Zach Britton his fourth save opportunity of the year. He easily converted in the 6-3 victory to improve his team’s record to 8-1.
On the bright side, the Phillies have their two most reliable starters to rely on in the rest of this series. Arrieta got his work in against the best in the business while Nola and Wheeler’s matchups could favor Philadelphia. They will likely face Jordan Montgomery and Masahiro Tanaka on the other side. Meanwhile, early AL MVP front-runner Aaron Judge ended his homer streak at five games.
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