In a season that is 162 games long, every game matters. The Philadelphia Phillies know this, having won the NL East in 2007 and 2008 in the second to last game of the season. Therefore the team needs to leave Texas with a series win over the Rangers. A lot of doubt surrounds this Phillies team, and starting off the season on the right foot can go a long way.
The team’s offense during spring training was dismal, and it raises worries that this season will once again be full of offensive futility. However, second baseman Chase Utley is not worried about his rough spring, where he batted .217, and has a positive vibe about his swing. It recalls the seemingly controversial “who cares” comment from shortstop Jimmy Rollins. If Utley is hitting over .300 to start the season, his spring training struggles are irrelevant.
Today’s opening day game is the perfect opportunity for the Phillies to start this season off on the right foot. Cliff Lee is on the mound, and outside of Prince Fielder, he has dominated the Ranger’s lineup. Meanwhile, the Phillies will be facing Tanner Scheppers, who is making his first major league start. Scheppers spent last season in the bullpen, going 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA. This is not great news for the Phillies, who have often struggled against less experienced pitchers. It could be that the team has less knowledge of these younger pitchers, as only Ben Revere and recent acquisition Jayson Nix have faced Scheppers in the past.
The offense must take advantage of the first time starter, and put up plenty of runs to support Lee. Last season Lee had the fourth lowest run support in the league, and the team suffered as a result. As the Phillies will open the season against an AL team, they will have the benefit of having a designated hitter. An extra bat in the lineup should help the team to give Lee better support today, but in the past it has not always been the case. Domonic Brown will be today’s DH, and Tony Gwynn Jr. will play in left. This is important for the Phillies to win today as Gwynn is a better outfielder than Brown, and had a good spring training at the plate.
I am calling for the Phillies to open the season with a victory today, led by the arm of Cliff Lee. The lefty had a great spring training, and his history against the Rangers gives even more optimism that Lee will succeed today. Once he leaves the game, the bullpen should hold, as they have the chance to be a strength this year rather than a weakness. Gwynn in left field will give Lee a better defense behind him, but could also provide better run support. He will get enough support today, thanks to the hitter friendly Globe Life Park as well as the extra bat in the lineup. Look for the Phillies hitters to take advantage of this and to backup their second ace. I have the Phillies winning 4-2 against the Rangers.
Happy Opening Day!