Improved bullpen and some defensive gems propel Phillies to Opening Day win

Didi Gregorius makes a catch for the Phillies
If this were last year, the outcome might have been different. This year though, with a new and improved bullpen, the Phillies anticipate many more days like Thursday. 

The bullpen tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings, backing a solid start from Aaron Nola, to push Thursday's season opener against the Braves to extra innings. 

With two outs in the tenth and a runner on third, the Braves intentionally walked Didi Gregorius to face Jean Segura. Segura proceeded to loft the first pitch he saw from Atlanta reliever Nate Jone into left to drive in the winning run. 

"He was walking to the plate before I saw them announce Didi was being walked and I think he took it as a challenge," Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. 

The Phillies won the contest, 3-2. 


Jose Alvarado did his best Mitch Williams impression in the eighth, loading the bases before throwing a 100-mph sinker for a third strike to escape the frame. 

Connor Brogdon secured the win, thanks partly to an outstanding throw from centerfield and a textbook block of the plate by J.T. Realmuto on a Marcell Ozuna fly-ball that nailed Ozzie Albies at home. 

"Great throw, right on the money," Brogdon said. "I had the best seat in the house for it." 

The Phillies carried a 2-0 lead into the seventh before Nola threw a poorly placed 0-2 pitch to Pablo Sandoval. The Panda didn't miss, launching a two-run shot to even the contest. Nola struck out six and walked none. 

Though there were multiple outstanding defensive plays, including a pair from Alec Bohm and Gregorius, the story of the day was the bullpen. 

"This is a big boost for our club," Girardi said. 

"It would have been tough to lose a game like that today, opening day, the first time we had fans. So this is a big boost for us. 

"That's an extremely dangerous lineup. To be able to hold them down like that, that's some really good pitching. 

"And I'll tell you what, eighty-eight hundred people make a lot of noise in a ballpark that holds forty-four thousand. It was great to see, great to hear and I look forward to Saturday."

Zach Wheeler will start on Saturday for the Phillies. First pitch is 4:05 p.m. EDT. 
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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