Phillies' bullpen sabotages quick start to the season with Opening Day implosion

It wasn't a good showing for Phillies relievers despite Zack Wheeler's gem of a start.

Philadelphia Phillies bullpen struggles on Opening Day
Philadelphia Phillies bullpen struggles on Opening Day / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies wanted to get out to a quick start this season, especially with the division rival Atlanta Braves in town.

It didn't exactly end how Phillies fans might have hoped, but for six innings, Zack Wheeler delivered exactly what his team needed to start the season on the right foot. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn't get out of its own way en route to destroying the Phils' chances for a win on Opening Day.

The Phillies ace took the mound for his first Opening Day start and absolutely dominated the NL East rival Braves on Friday afternoon. Although things started auspiciously with a Ronald Acuna Jr. bouncer up the middle, Wheeler ended up cruising, for the most part, through six innings and made the presumed best offense in baseball look pedestrian at best.

After signing his extension this spring, Wheeler and the Phillies expect big things this season. His final line on Friday reinforces why the front office opened up the purse strings for the righty. He finished with five strikeouts, no walks, and five hits but no runs allowed over his 89 pitches. He collected a game-high 18 swings and misses.

Phillies bullpen falls flat on Opening Day

Then the bullpen happened.

With the relief corps staked to a 2-0 lead on a Brandon Marsh fifth-inning home run off Braves ace Spencer Strider that electrified the Citizens Bank Park crowd, every arm, aside from Jeff Hoffman and Yunior Marte, that came out of the bullpen struggled to look even remotely competent.

Matt Strahm started the trainwreck with 1/3 of an inning in the seventh, giving up two runs on three hits to tie the game. The lefty starts his 2024 season with a 54.00 ERA.

Hoffman bailed him out by getting the final two outs of the inning, and, for a brief moment, it looked like the Phillies would be able to overcome the small Strahm hiccup tied 2-2. But then the train went off the rails and got nowhere near the tracks again.

José Alvarado, the presumed closer in most fans' eyes coming into the season, was definitely off his game. He threw 30 pitches in the eighth, and despite topping out at 101 mph, he got only two called strikes and one swing-and-miss. He got two outs but allowed five runs on three hits and two walks. Yikes.

Just when dejected Phillies fans thought it couldn't get any worse, down 7-2, Connor Brogdon got the final out of the inning, but not before giving up two more Braves scores on a pair of walks and a hit.

At least Yunior Marte got through a scoreless ninth on 15 pitches, not that it mattered at that point.

Even though the bats put one on the board in the final frame on a Nick Castellanos RBI single, a 9-3 loss to the Braves on Opening Day wasn't exactly what we all had in mind when the day started.