Phillies face tough stretch against rivals to open season

Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies warms up (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies warms up (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Rejoice. The 2021 Major League Baseball season begins today — April 1 — with a slate of games starting at 1:05 p.m. The last game of the day is 10:10 p.m., while the Phillies open up their 162-game marathon against their divisional-rival Atlanta Braves at 3:05 p.m. in Philadelphia.

Aaron Nola will make his fourth straight Opening Day start, his third against the Atlanta Braves, while Max Fried takes the hill for the opposition.

Fried, who has faced the Phillies 11 times in his career, has struggled at Citizens Bank Park — specifically, giving up seven home runs and issuing 8 walks in just seven appearances. Nola, on the other hand, is often dominant against Atlanta — posting an 11-6 record in 20 starts against the Braves in his career.

The 2021 Philadelphia Phillies season is upon us.

The Phillies’ first 13 games will be solely against two divisional rivals, the Braves and New York Mets. No question about it, how the team fares will set the tone for the entire 2021 season. The Phillies begin with a six-game homestand, three each against the Braves and Mets. Then, they will embark on a seven-game road trip — three in Atlanta, then four in New York.

These divisional matchups are must-win series. The Phillies cannot afford to drop nine of these games and still have a chance at the division. At worst, the Phillies need to go 6-7 and stay afloat — but 8-5 seems very possible.

Within the National League East, considered the best division in baseball, the Braves and the Mets are probably the biggest threats to the Phillies in terms of winning the crown — only making these first 13 games even more important. Yes, the Miami Marlins give the Phillies trouble constantly, but most likely won’t make a run at the division title. The Washington Nationals added to their offense in the offseason, but their pitching struggled big time in 2020.

In 2019, Bryce Harper‘s first year in red pinstripes, a sharp offensive attack bundled with solid pitching led to a 3-0 opening series sweep of the Atlanta Braves, only for the team to finish 81-81 and falter in September. As we already know, the opening series may not matter all that much in the end, but it would be nice to see wins against divisional opponents early on.

Get excited. It is finally Opening Day. Let’s go Phils.

More. Nearly 30 former Phillies make Opening Day rosters. light