PHILADELPHIA − When we last saw the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, it was Game 5 of the World Series on Nov. 3, and the sold-out crowd was ear-splittingly loud.
A lot has happened since that night, and not much of it good. National League Championship Series hero Bryce Harper had surgery on his elbow, Rhys Hoskins was lost for the season with a torn ACL, and starting pitchers Ranger Suarez and phenom Andrew Painter were placed on the injured list.
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And, oh yeah, the Phillies got off to a 1-5 start after six straight road games − they lost all three to the Texas Rangers and two of three to the Yankees.
Needless to say, the sold-out crowd of 44,365 fans for the home opener on Friday was hoping for a return to the magical October run.
And there was J.T. Realmuto delivering the jolt − both to the crowd and to the baseball − with a two-run homer in the seventh that broke a 2-2 tie and led the Phillies to a 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
It was Realmuto’s first homer and first RBIs of the season. Edmundo Sosa, pinch-hitting for Kody Clemens, added a solo shot in the eighth.
Zack Wheeler pitched 5⅓ innings, while the bullpen, which came into the game with an ERA of 8.44, shut down the Reds. Jose Alvarado pitched the eighth and Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his first save of the season.
Nick Castellanos gave the Phillies an early lead after he doubled in the second, then eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk to Brandon Marsh. The Reds tied it in the fifth before the Phillies retook the lead in the bottom half on Kyle Schwarber’s RBI double.
The Reds tied it in the top of the sixth before Realmuto untied it. Trea Turner led off the seventh with a single to center. One out later, Realmuto homered off Derek Law.
It wasn’t quite “Bedlam at the Bank,” but it was enough for the Phillies to improve to 2-5 on the season.
Wheeler can’t hold lead
Wheeler was given a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth as Turner led off with a single and scored on Schwarber’s double.
But Wheeler couldn’t hold it. He gave up a double to T.J. Friedl to start the sixth inning, then got a groundout before Tyler Stephenson doubled in Friedl to tie the game. The Phillies then brought in Andrew Bellatti, who got the final two outs.
Wheeler went 5⅓ innings, allowed the two runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out five. For Wheeler, it was better than his first start, when he allowed four runs in 4⅓ innings in the Phillies’ 16-3 loss to Texas last Saturday.
Castellanos provides early spark
Nick Castellanos struggled last season after signing a five-year deal worth $100 million, often hearing boos from disappointed Phillies fans.
But Castellanos turned that around Friday, doubling in each of his first two at-bats. The first led off the second inning. Two outs later, Reds starter Hunter Greene lost his control. He walked three straight batters, thereby forcing in Castellanos for a 1-0 lead.
Castellanos came up again in the third inning with Realmuto on first and one out. He lined a pitch into the gap in left-center. But Realmuto was held at third. He was stranded there as Bryson Stott popped out and Alec Bohm flew out to right.
Eagles coach throws out first pitch
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday. As he came out to the mound, wearing a No. 23 Phillies jersey, the fans in attendance started singing the Eagles’ fight song. Sirianni waved to the crowd, wound up and threw a strike to the catcher. The Phillie Phanatic, serving as the umpire, called it a strike.
Another first baseman goes on IL
The Phillies announced before the game that first baseman Darick Hall, who was replacing Hoskins, was placed on the 10-day IL with a thumb sprain. Infielder Kody Clemens was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson said that Hall will have surgery on his thumb and will miss at least a month.
He said Clemens will get the bulk of the starts at first against right-handed pitchers, but third baseman Alec Bohm will see some time there, too, most likely against left-handed pitchers. But Thomson stopped short of saying that Bohm will transition there, saying: “He’s our third baseman.”
Clemens started at first Friday and batted eighth. His father, Roger Clemens, a star pitcher for more than 20 seasons, attended the game. The younger Clemens hit .145 with five homers in 117 at-bats last season with the Detroit Tigers.
“It’s tough,” Thomson said about replacing the anticipated homers from Hall. “But other guys have to step up. That’s what we did last year when (Harper) went down (for two months) and a few other guys. If we catch lightning in a bottle with Kody, and he has a good year, and gets some hits and drives the ball like he was in spring training, we’ll figure it out.”
Bryce Harper could be back sooner than you think
Harper took some batting practice swings more than four hours before the game, and as you would expect, he crushed a few balls well over the right-field fence. It was the second time Harper took batting practice, the first coming Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s not bothering him to swing the bat,” Thomson said. “He certainly can make a ballpark look small.”
But Harper is still a ways from returning, even as the designated hitter. Thomson said Harper hasn’t been cleared yet to slide or to resume throwing. The concern with sliding is that he could rupture the repaired tendon in his elbow.
“First things first, we’ve got to get him to slide, and then get him into games,” Thomson said. “Then we’ll figure the other part out.”
Still, it’s encouraging that Harper will return sometime in May. If the Phillies had put Harper on the 60-day injured list to start the season, he wouldn’t be eligible to return until May 29 at the earliest.
Keep in mind that Harper hasn’t had a spring training. So he’ll have to go on a rehab assignment to the minor leagues, perhaps a lengthy one, to get his timing back. That won’t help the Phillies much in the short term. But it’s a long season, and the Phillies were eight games below .500 last year on May 31. So there is still plenty of time.
Caravel star a cog in Reds’ lineup
Caravel Academy’s Jake Fraley is beginning his second full season with the Reds. He went 0-for-3 with a walk Friday, hitting third as the designated hitter.
Fraley, who came to the Reds in March 2022, in a multiplayer trade with the Seattle Mariners, came into the game hitting .385 with one homer and four RBIs. This after a strong spring in which Fraley hit .320 with three homers, 14 RBIs and five stolen bases.
Last season, Fraley hit .259 with 12 homers and 28 RBIs. He missed 77 games midway through the season with a knee and toe injury.
After opening their season with six straight road games, the Phillies will play 13 of their next 20 games at home, and all but three of those games are against non-playoff teams from 2022. There’s this three-game set vs. the Reds, followed by three against the Miami Marlins before four games on the road against the Reds and three more against the White Sox. The Phillies will return home to face the Rockies and Mariners (the only playoff team).
What’s more, the Phillies won’t face the Braves until May 25 and the Mets until May 30. By then, there’s a good chance that Harper will be back.
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Phillies home opener vs. Reds takeaways: What’s up with Bryce Harper?