Phillies Offense Explodes, Nola Shines, Sunday Showdown With Strasburg

Apr 8, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Howie Kendrick (47) rounds second base after hitting a triple during the first inning of game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 8, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Howie Kendrick (47) rounds second base after hitting a triple during the first inning of game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports /

The Phillies offense plates 12 runs in the first inning while Aaron Nola gave fans reason to be optimistic about his future

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in Philadelphia. Sun shining, temperatures rising and Phillies fans are basking in the glow of last night’s 17-3 rout of the Nationals. The timing could not have better for Phillies batters heading into today’s showdown vs. Stephen Strasburg.

But first, let’s get back to the insanity that ensued last night at Citizens Bank Park. With the spotlight clearly on Aaron Nola, the Phillies offense provided a much-needed distraction.

Nola struggled out of the gates in the top of the first inning. A leadoff single and stolen base by Trea Turner combined with a walk to Adam Eaton and single by Daniel Murphy loaded the bases. Thankfully, Ryan Zimmerman grounded into an inning-ending double play made possible by Maikel Franco‘s quick thinking.

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After Franco touched third base to force Eaton, his throw to first was barely in time to get Zimmerman. It could have been a long inning for the wrong reasons had Nationals manager Dusty Baker been granted more than 30 seconds to review.

The bottom of the first proved to be the highlight of this very young Phillies season so far. Cesar Hernandez drove a 0-1 pitch from Jeremy Guthrie to the wall in left field for an opposite-field double. Howie Kendrick followed with a signature line drive single to right field sending Hernandez to third. Kendrick stole second base with ease followed by an Odubel Herrera walk to load the bases. Maikel Franco then fought off an inside pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly plating Hernandez. The merry go round was beginning to turn and the Phillies lineup was about to churn out the crazy carnival music.

The Phillies sent 17 batters to the plate in the bottom frame which lasted 37 minutes. The 12 runs scored set a first inning record for the Phillies franchise. More highlights of the record-breaking inning and game below:

  • Right fielder Michael Saunders finished the game only a home run shy of hitting for the cycle
  • Maikel Franco’s first inning sacrifice fly and double were both encouraging pokes to the right side of second base
  • Howie Kendrick’s ability to make solid contact to the opposite field is nothing short of silly
  • Tommy Joseph‘s two hits in the inning were his first of the season, both for RBI’s
  • Odubel Herrera’s seven-pitch walk and legged-out single showed how locked-in he is right now. His energy and enthusiasm alone are worth the price of admission
  • Cesar Hernandez pitch recognition (double to left) and patience (six-pitch walk) was nothing short of spectacular. He is becoming the catalyst in the lead off position the team has needed
  • Cameron Rupp saw 13 pitches in the first inning at the plate
  • The Phillies team offense has lead the National League in pitches per at-bat from the beginning. They currently are making a liar out of Tom Petty waiting out pitchers to the tune of 4.23 PPAB

How did Nola respond? The 12-run flood in the first was exactly what he needed as he simply struck out the side in the top of the second. He settled down and baffled the National’s bats in ways reminding us of his rookie campaign. Nola was sure to mention that the ridiculous run support definitely helped.

"“I couldn’t ask for better run support,” he said. “I told myself I have to lock it in right now.”USA TODAY"

Moving forward to this afternoon, the Phillies will face a formidable foe in Stephen Strasburg. Both teams are sure to have a short memory of what transpired last night before today’s 1:35 pm start. They’ll have no trouble remembering how Strasburg has dominated the Phillies batsmen over the course of his eight-year career. He has limited the Phils to a .193/.226/.294/.521 slash line. But with a .271 BAbip, that line shouts out strikeouts as he’s whiffed them in 35% of their at bats. Of the Phillies 76 hits against Strasburg, 22 have gone for extra bases including nine home runs.

Going up against Strasburg for the Phillies will be the steady presence of Jeremy Hellickson. He’s fared fairly well facing the Nationals over six games in his career. Their line with Hellickson on the hill is a mediocre .238/.333/.492/.825 with a .250 BAbip. The Nationals have managed to slug seven home runs in 126 at-bats with 27 strikeouts. Hellickson is a typical a pitch-to-contact pitcher, so his game relies on location and adjusting pitch speed. He’ll need to be precise with his location as pitching to contact against the Nationals leaves little room for error.

Next: All Eyes On Aaron Nola

Should be an exciting time at CBP today for fans hoping the Phillies can build upon the momentum from last night. If they maintain their ability at the plate to wait out opposing pitchers, they’ll have a chance against Strasburg. The Nationals will be eager to move on from yesterday but will need to bring their A-game against the crafty Hellickson.