Baseball is back and while it’s a short sample the Phillies are showing plenty of fight in the early going, whether in victory or defeat.
What has been encouraging early is the starting pitching.
Opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson, who had to leave his second start after five innings due to a cramp in his right arm, had a 0.90 ERA through his first two starts, covering 10 innings.
Jerad Eickoff had a 2.63 ERA in his first two starts, striking 13 (and walking five) in 13 2/3 innings.
And Aaron Nola, returned to the mound from an elbow injury that sidelined him since July 28 of last season, had an encouraging first start.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the pressure was taken off when the Phillies scored 12 first inning runs in a 17-3 win over the Washington Nationals. Still, Nola allowed three earned runs in six innings, which qualifies as a quality start.
A key to the rotation is Vince Velasquez, who has the best stuff of the Phillies staff, but has a problem going deep into games.
Velasquez allowed four earned runs in four innings during the Phillies 7-6 loss to Washington in their home opener. While Velasquez allowed two home runs, he also struck out 10.
What was encouraging for the Phillies, even though they lost four of their seven games, is how they never quit.
In the aforementioned loss to Washington, they trailed 7-0 against ace Max Scherzer, before battling back in the one-run loss.
And they have been able to fight back from adversity. After former closer Jeanmar Gomez allowed a three-run home run to Washington’s Ryan ZImmerman to tie the scored at 3-3 with two outs in the ninth inning, the Phillies won the game in the bottom of the ninth on Cesar Hernandez’s RBI single.
Gomez, who had a 19.13 ERA last September/October in 12 appearances, had allowed two home runs in his first three games this season.
The day after the 4-3 win over Washington, manager Pete Mackanin announced that 39-year-old righthander Joaquin Benoit would be the closer.
Benoit still throws hard, in the mid 90’s. He has closed before an entered the season with 51 career saves.
Even when the Phillies acquired Benoit, there was speculation that he would have a short tenure in Philadelphia. That’s because if he pitches well, Benoit could be shipped to a contender for a prospect.
The Phillies brought him on for his experience and no doubt he has already proven to be a good influence on the so many of the young bullpen arms.
Hector Neris, with a wicked split finger fastball, is likely the Phillies future closer.
Either way, there has been a lot to be encouraged from of the Phillies early start. They are not expected to contend, but could set the tone for a contender as early as next year.
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