Philadelphia Phillies baseball returned to Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon. Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, and the Joe Girardi-led squad opened up the 2021 season with a 3-2, extra-inning victory over the three-time defending National League East champion Atlanta Braves.
Phillies second baseman Jean Segura drove in Harper for the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning. His second single of the afternoon secured the Phillies first walk-off victory on Opening Day since 2011, coincidentally the last time they made the postseason.
Public Address announcer Dan Baker sent chills down the spines of a crowd of more than 8,000 fans when he introduced the Phillies starting lineup. It was the first time fans had attended a game inside Citizens Bank Park since September 2019.
Phillies Stars of the Game
Segura proved to be the hero in the 10th after Atlanta intentionally walked Didi Gregorius to put two men on. Segura stepped to the plate with “noticeable urgency,” according to the Phillies home broadcast team, and singled in the winning run. Segura went 2-5 on the afternoon.
Re-signed star catcher J.T. Realmuto went 2-for-4 with an RBI single on a light dribbler in the third inning and was also hit by a pitch. His biggest contribution, however, came in the top of the 10th inning when he took a great throw from center fielder Roman Quinn — flawlessly executing a tagout of Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring.
Aaron Nola’s Abrupt Ending
Phillies ace Aaron Nola started his fourth consecutive Opening Day game, the most by a Phillies pitcher since Steve Carlton‘s 10-year streak ended in 1986. Nola pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs off six hits, along with six strikeouts, in a no-decision.
Nola cruised through the first five frames, allowing only three hits and managing his pitch count efficiently. The first sign of trouble came in the sixth, when an error by first baseman Rhys Hoskins opened the door for the Braves. Third baseman Alec Bohm bailed the Phillies out with a spectacular catch on a line drive by Marcell Ozuna to keep Atlanta scoreless.
The final batter to face Nola did the most damage. Veteran Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the top of the seventh to tie the score at two. Braves left-hander Max Fried pitched five innings, also allowing two runs in a no-decision.
By now, you know that the Phillies bullpen was largely responsible for the team’s failure to make the expanded 16-team postseason in 2020. Their combined ERA north of 7.00 was the worst in the majors in nearly a century.
The revamped bullpen shined in the opener. Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Hector Neris, and Connor Brogdon combined to pitch 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Although Alvarado loaded the bases in the seventh, he escaped the jam with a 100 miles per hour fastball called for strike three to secure the final out of the inning.
A Look Ahead
The Phillies and Braves will meet again in the second of the three-game opening series on Saturday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. Zack Wheeler will get the ball for Philadelphia, while veteran free-agent acquisition Charlie Morton will start for Atlanta.