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The Phillies are doing their best to make fans forget last season's disastrous pitching. They opened the regular season with three games that featured stellar performances on the mound, up and down the pitching staff. How good was it? Let's count the ways.
A dominant sweep
Not only did the Phillies sweep the Braves, but they did so without trailing at any point in any of the three games in the series. The last time they swept a series of 3+ games, without trailing in any of them, was in August of 2016 against the Rockies. The last time they did so against the Braves was July 1-3 in 2008, the year the Phillies went on to win the World Series.
A first time for everything
The Phillies won their season opener with a Jean Segura walkoff single in the 10th inning. The last time they opened the regular season with a walkoff win was 2011, when they beat the Astros 5-4, on a John Mayberry Jr. single that scored Ben Francisco with the winning run. Like this past weekend, the Phillies went on to sweep the series. Thursday was the first time in their 139-year history that they had a walkoff extra-innings win to open the regular season.
Wheeler’s big debut
Zack Wheeler pitched seven innings, striking out 10 Braves, walking none, allowing only a 2nd-inning single by Travis d’Arnaud. He also knocked in two runs with a single in the 5th inning, and a double in the 6th. Only five times since 1900 has a pitcher thrown 7 IP, 10 K, no walks, allowed one or fewer hits, AND knocked in multiple runs. Funny enough, he’s not the first Phillies pitcher to do so: Jim Bunning struck out 10 and knocked in two runs in his perfect game on Father’s Day of 1964.
Not bad, for starters
Aaron Nola, Wheeler and Zach Eflin had the Braves in knots, combining for a 1.31 ERA in the series. How long has it been since Phillies pitchers had three consecutive starts of 6 IP and two earned runs or fewer allowed? August of 2018, when it was done by Nola, Jake Arrieta and Nick Pivetta.
This is the Phillies bullpen?!?
After last year, any positive result for a Phillies reliever is welcome. But if the opening series is any guide, the 2021 Phillies ‘pen is worlds better than its predecessor. The relievers pitched 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, allowing just one hit and four walks and striking out 11. Not surprisingly, the 2020 Phillies bullpen was not able to pitch three straight games without giving up a run. The last time it happened was August of 2019, in a 3-game sweep of the Cubs.
Shutting them down
The pitching staff as a whole pitched to a 0.96 ERA (3 ER in 28 IP) in the series against Atlanta. A fantastic number, but not the best in team history. For that, you need to hop in the wayback machine and head to 1915, when the eventual NL champion Phillies allowed just 2 ER in their first three games, a 0.67 ERA. Two of the first three games were complete games by Pete Alexander, on the way to a 31-10 season, with a 1.22 ERA.