The Phillies 2014 home opener is upon us. The Phils started the season by going 3-3 on the road against the Rangers and Cubs. It could have been better and should have been better, as the bullpen coughed up a couple late leads in Texas, but it is what it is. Now the Phightins come back to South Philly to open up a 10-game home stand beginning with three-game series against Milwaukee. The Brewers and Pirates are currently tied for 1st place in the NL Central with a 4-2 record. Milwaukee’s been led by their pitching staff early in the season. Their 1.45 team ERA is 1st in the NL. The Brewers are probably feeling pretty good coming off a three-game sweep of the World Champion Red Sox.
This series should be an excellent test for the Phils who’ve scored 3 runs or less in 4 of their 6 games so far. Sound familiar? Last year the Phils scored 3 runs or less in 86 games. With the starting eight all healthy and the addition of Marlon Byrd, that number should come down significantly. There’s no need to panic as we’ve only played a week of baseball. In this environment we usually see heavily skewed stats that will continue to normalize over time.
Game one features Kyle Lohse, 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA against Kyle Kendrick, 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. Loeshe, a 35 year-old righty is in his second season with the Brewers. Last year he went 11-10 and had better than average peripheral numbers. His ERA was 3.35 and his WHIP was 1.168. In 13 lifetime starts against the Phils Lohse is 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA. In Lohse’s last outing he surrendered two home runs which accounted for all three runs the Braves scored off him en route to a 5-2 win. Aside from the two mistake pitches to Freeman and Heyward that turned into HR’s, Lohse pitched pretty well. He went 7 innings, struck out 8 and only allowed 2 BB’s.
The Phils home opener assignment will go Kyle Kendrick. KK was in line for the W last Wednesday when Jonathan Papelbon imploded in a save situation in the 9th. Kendrick went seven strong, allowing five hits, one BB and one ER while striking out four. Kendrick got off to an excellent start last year and the Phils are hoping he can duplicate that early season success all year. Lifetime Kendrick has struggled to pick up wins against the Brewers. In eight games, five of which were starts, Kendrick is 1-4, 3.58 ERA against the Brew Crew.
Perennial Phillies killer Ryan Braun is less than a 100% with a thumb injury that has him off to a slow start. He’s 3-20 on the young season, all singles. Lifetime against the Phils Braun has slashed .368/.430/.690. The Brewers were counting on Braun to have a big season this year, proving that despite the Biogenisis scandal and previous drug test failure (which he finally admitted lo last year when he accepted his suspension for his role in the Biogenesis case) he was still a premier middle of the order hitter. In the first week of the season the big bats for the Brewers have been Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez. If Braun can get past what is considered to be a serious injury to his thumb, the Brewers will have a formidable lineup.
Offensively the Phils have been led by the hot bat of Chase Utley. Coming into today’s home opener Utley is slashing .458/536/.833 with three HR’s and six RBI’s to his credit. In a supporting role Dom Brown is off to a solid start with a .381 BA, though he’s only produced one extra base hit so far. They’ll come as long as he keeps hitting the ball hard as he has. All winter and spring we’ve heard from Phils management that if the team stays healthy they’ll produce. I agree the older guys can produce, but not at the level they did in their primes. Staying healthy and getting a beyyer effort out of the bullpen may be enough to keep the Phils in contention.
More on tomorrow and Wednesday’s games to come. Today, enjoy the beautiful weather and a Phils win, putting them back above .500