Brutal end to Phillies opening day – NBC Sports Philadelphia

The latest chapter in baseball's most intriguing current rivalry turned into a horror movie late in the inning for the Phillies, who squandered a two-run lead over the Braves and gave up seven in the eighth inning of a 9-3 loss.

The disappointing Opening Day result represents less than 1% of their schedule, and it was against a team expected to post triple-digit wins and a contending pitcher who may be better than anyone else they face, but some of the themes that contributed to the Phillies' NLCS collapse have also been taken into account. 2023 in mind.

They chased…a lot. They swung at 40% of the pitches thrown by Spencer Stryder outside the strike zone, and then on half of the pitches not thrown by Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson, the first two relievers Atlanta used.

The Phillies extended the zone far too frequently in their last five postseason games last season, losing four of them as a series they seemed to have in hand was given away as much by overaggression as by anything else.

A big focus this spring was on board selection. JT Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, Johan Rojas, Bryson Stott, for a man, they all talked in camp about the need to pursue hittable pitches and lay off pitches that may look enticing but won't consistently lead to high-quality contact. As always, easier said than done.

The Phils' only runs until the ninth came in the fifth inning when Brandon Marsh cut through the wind to launch a ball over the wall into left-center field for a two-run homer. Strider was on his way to that point but the Phillies forced him to throw 34 pitches to chase him down five. And things were looking promising.

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Zack Wheeler did his job in his first start on Opening Day, holding the Braves off the board for six walk-free innings. He was sacked after 89 pitches because it is March 29, and most managers are cautious about key players at this time of year, especially those who they believe will continue to train until October.

The game changed in the seventh inning shortly after the Phillies turned on a pitch that MLB Network rated last week as the best in baseball. Matt Strahm allowed a single and a double to three of the first four batters he faced to tie the game. Jeff Hoffman got into traffic on the basepaths but put out the fire.

The eighth inning was when the Braves did the bulk of their damage. Jose Alvarado simply didn't have it. He allowed an RBI single but got a second out and was about to get out of the inning with just one deficit. He then walked Adam Duvall to load the bases and Ronald Acuña Jr. followed with an RBI single. Alvarado was lifted in favor of Connor Brogdon, who immediately threw a wild pitch.

Brogdon was one of the last relievers to make the team, but Alvarado is an important piece of that puzzle. The Phillies are hoping this is just a hiccup. The five earned runs will impact his ERA throughout the season, but the important part is that he bounces back in his next few games to regain confidence. The Phils can't afford to snowball Alvarado like they did earlier in his career before he became the financial reliever he was in 2022 and 2023.

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They will be looking to wipe the taste from their mouths on Saturday afternoon. Aaron Nola makes his season debut against Braves lefty Max Fried.

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