Arlington, TX – Started Thursday where it finished four months ago, give or take about 250 miles. Same case, though. Also against a team from the American League West.
And what about the result?
Let’s be clear: On a scale from somewhat disappointing to utterly soul-crushing, the Phillies’ 11-7 collapse to the Rangers in the 141st Opening Day in franchise history barely registered as a blip. Sure, it might drag on a little bit, especially with the day off on Friday. But after a long while, you’ll merge with the 161 games that are about to follow.
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Flashbacks were brought in just as much how Where it happened. After former President George W. Bush delivered the ball on a ceremonial first pitch to the mound, where Nolan Ryan was standing, and a sellout crowd of 38,387 sold out and sang “Texas, Our Texas,” the Phillies jumped out to a 5-0 lead, spoiling the Rangers’ first appearance. Invincible Jacob DeGroom.
Then their starter blew it.
Aaron Nola, on whose time with the Phillies the clock may have been ticking, continued to struggle adjusting to the new ballpark clock. He clipped the Rangers’ order to three rounds before they scored nine—Count M, nine—in the fourth, and five from NOLA.
If it sounds familiar, it might be because of the Phillies’ recent trip to Texas, 145 days ago in Houston, which culminated in a World Series defeat they led after Game 3. But they have gone 12-3 by the Astros in their last three contests, 4-1 in the deciding Game 6.
This was the final loss in terms of falling from the front.
This defeat highlighted a potential problem for Nola, who had spoken candidly all spring about how difficult it is to adjust to throwing a pitch within 15 seconds with the bases empty and especially within 20 seconds with runners.
“A lot of pitches, behind the guys, they get it [Corey] Retrieving a nightmarish inning, Nola said, “He’ll drag on base to lead off the inning, which kind of hurts.” “I left some balls on top of the plate. It was a bit of a change. I’ll have to go back and watch it. They hit several good pitches, but one of them [Robbie] Grossman was in the middle.”
The fourth round was particularly annoying because Nola didn’t allow a significant amount of hitting through the first three. But that all seemed to change once Seager hit a one-hit single to left field.
Nola has always been one of the Phillies’ slower-action pitchers. He also tended to be more intentional out of stretch. Last season, hitters carried a .199/.237/.306 slash from the end with the bases empty compared to .259/.294/.426 from the stretch with runners.
Did Nola start rushing as soon as Seager reached base and Adolis Garcia golfed a curveball dunking into the dirt to left field for a one-out?
“I don’t know if it hurt him, but it probably didn’t help,” said hitting coach Caleb Cotham. “These are the times when it’s always legitimately told to slow down the game. Take your time. This kind of inning, next time, he’ll have more strategies. This is the first time he’s really felt that.”
Cotham tried to slow things down for Nola by walking out to the mound after García’s single. But Nola walked with Josh Jung and gave up a double streak to Jonah Hime. Grossman followed with a three-run homer to right field.
“You’re trying to squeeze in a little more [with runners on]Right?” said Nola. “That’s when you really have to put on good performances. I didn’t do that today.”
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NOLA has come to occupy a certain position within the organization. Drafted in the first round in 2014, he is the longest-serving player on the active roster. He was also making his sixth consecutive Opening Day starts, the third-most streak in club history behind Robin Roberts (12 straight) and Steve Carlton (10), both Hall of Famers.
It’s rare air. Nola had hoped to sign a contract extension with the Phillies but was unable to reach an agreement before the two sides agreed to table talks last weekend. Now, he may be heading to free agency at the end of the season.
For now, though, Nola’s biggest concern will be finding a better rhythm with the stadium clock ticking. Like most pitchers, he was always taught to come off the mound whenever the game started to speed up. Under the new rules, pitchers are allowed to out the rubber only twice per at-bat.
“It’s figuring out how many disengagements there are, what I do to slow this down, how I can build in using our visits appropriately, and things we can do within the rules,” Cotham said. “It’s a learning point.”
Sure, the Phillies character they can put a “W” on next for games when they have a five-run lead and one aces on the mound.
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The Phillies notched six extra base hits in 3 innings against DeGrom, who had never allowed more than five in 209 previous major league games. They attacked their former opponent with the Mets. Alec Boehm blasted a two-run homer on a high 99-mile-per-hour fastball in the second inning. In the third, Tria Turner’s $300 million home run made his Phillies hotly anticipated debut by following Brandon Marsh’s leadoff triple with a triple of his own.
But after Nola took the lead, the Rangers took a lead, 6-5, on Nathaniel Lowe’s 35-foot home run at the third base line against reliever Gregory Soto and kept going.
Auspicious start, disappointing end.
Very familiar in Texas to the Phillies.
Even World Series finalist Nick Castellanos hit the field with runners on board in front of Rangers near Jose Leclerc for the opening day.
Another reminder of how things left off.
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