Harper, Realmuto hit first homers in Phils uniform as team secures first series win
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Phillies, Arrieta Seek Sweep of Braves on 'Sunday Night Baseball'

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Having won their first season-opening series since 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies (2-0) and RHP Jake Arrieta will look to sweep their division rival Atlanta Braves (0-2) in primetime, nationally televised ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" action at Citizens Bank Park.

After going against rookie RHP Bryse Wilson on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 44,597 , the Phillies will face another Braves rookie in Sunday's series finale — RHP Kyle Wright. According to The Athletic's David O'Brien, this is the first time since 1905 that the Braves have tabbed multiple rookie starting pitchers within the first three games of a season.

Atlanta's 8-6 loss to the Phillies on Saturday secured their first season-opening series loss to the Phillies since 1948, snapping their 10-series streak. The Phillies were down 3-0 early with RHP Nick Pivetta on the mound, when J.T. Realmuto picked up his first hit with the Phillies, a RBI single in the second. Two innings later, Cesar Hernandez hit a RBI triple, followed by Maikel Franco going yard for the second straight game. Realmuto hit a 434-foot blast to center in the fifth, his first in red pinstripes.

Then came the seventh inning. Against former Phillies southpaw Jesse Biddle, Bryce Harper launched a mammoth 465-foot, second-deck blast to deep center field — the second-farthest hit ball of his career. Franco added another RBI in the eighth, continuing his hot season-opening stretch with his team-leading sixth RBI. Adam Morgan earned the win, while Juan Nicasio, Jose Alvarez, Pat Neshek and Seranthony Dominguez all recorded their first holds.

Entering Sunday's action, the Phillies were among just four undefeated teams in MLB, joining the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals.

Starting Pitching Matchup:

 Atlanta Braves (0-2) Philadelphia Phillies (2-0)
RHP Kyle Wright RHP Jake Arrieta
(2018: 0-0, 4.50 ERA) (2018: 10-11, 3.96 ERA)

RHP Kyle Wright, Age: 23

  • Career vs. PHI: N/A
  • Career at Citizens Bank Park: N/A

Ranked by MLBPipeline.com as baseball's 30th-best prospect, Wright will make his first-career start after an impressive spring training showing in the eyes of Braves' brass. Although he posted a 7.02 ERA, allowing 13 runs (all earned) in 16 2/3 innings, he struck out 20 batters and walked just four.

The Huntsville, Alabama, native made four relief appearances last season with the Braves, all in September. In two appearances at home, Wright tossed a pair of scoreless innings each against the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals. In his two road outings, Wright surrendered a combined three runs on three hits, three walks, two home runs and three strikeouts against the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Mets.

The only Phillie to have previously opposed Wright is Harper, who walked in his only plate appearance against the rookie right-hander.

RHP Jake Arrieta, Age: 33

  • Career vs. ATL: 4-2, 3.05 ERA, 7 G, 7 GS, 41 1/3 IP, 32 H, 14 R, 14 ER, HR, 15 BB, 40 SO, 1.137 WHIP
  • Career at Citizens Bank Park: 6-3, 3.17 ERA, 17 G, 17 GS, 96 2/3 IP, 80 H, 44 R, 34 ER, 11 HR, 31 BB, 91 SO, 1.148 WHIP

Through 34 career starts in March/April, Arrieta is 19-7 with a 3.70 ERA, 180-73 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.150 WHIP spanning 201 2/3 innings and 823 batters faced. The now 10-year veteran and former National League Cy Young Award winner went 9-6 with a 3.11 ERA through his first 22 starts in his first season with the Phillies in 2018. He finished going 1-5 with a 6.35 ERA over his final nine starts.

Both the Phillies and Arrieta himself are optimistic of a bounce-back season in 2019, after he made an offseason adjustment to his arm slot, "a flaw that was exposed last season," notes The Athletic's Meghan Montemurro.

Starting Lineups:

Atlanta Braves (0-2) Philadelphia Phillies (2-0)
  Position Player Bats   Position Player Bats
1 CF Ender Inciarte L 1 LF Andrew McCutchen R
2 3B Josh Donaldson R 2 SS Jean Segura R
3 1B Freedie Freeman L 3 RF Bryce Harper L
4 LF Ronald Acuna Jr. R 4 1B Rhys Hoskins R
5 RF Nick Markakis L 5 C J.T. Realmuto R
6 2B Ozzie Albies S 6 CF Odubel Herrera L
7 C Brian McCann L 7 2B Cesar Hernandez S
8 SS Dansby Swanson R 8 3B Maikel Franco R
9 P Kyle Wright R 9 P Jake Arrieta R

Broadcast Information:

  • First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP

Game Notes:

  • The Phillies will kick off ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" slate for the first time since 2009, when on April 5, also home against the Braves, the club fell, 4-1. Starter Brett Myers allowed four runs on eight hits, one walk and three home runs surrendered spanning six innings. Jayson Werth produced the Phillies' lone run with a one-out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.
  • The Phillies have scored 18 runs through their first two games; only three other seasons in franchise history had they scored more: 1932 (20), 1994 (19), and 2010 (19), notes 6abc's Jeff Skversky, who adds:
    • The Phillies have homered six times thus far (Harper, Hoskins, Realmuto, Franco x2, and Andrew McCutchen); their most in franchise history through their first two games.
    • The Phillies are 2-0 for the first time since 2011.
    • Rhys Hoskins is the only Phillie to ever hit a grand slam on Opening Day at home.
  • The Phillies have sold out back-to-back games to start 2019; they last time the Phillies had 44,000 or more fans in consecutive home games was June 22-23, 2013, against the Mets, notes The Morning Call's Tom Housenick.
  • The Phillies' 6-7-8 hitters have drove in nine runs and reached base in 12 of 24 combined plate appearances so far, notes NBC Sports Philadelphia's Corey Seidman.
    As former Phillies PR director Larry Shenk notes regarding Harper's home run against once club prospect Biddle, both players were selected in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft: Harper No. 1 overall, Biddle No. 27 overall. Harper was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts previously against Biddle.
  • Harper's home run was caught by a female Braves fan from Tennessee; with no special requests, she gave up the ball to the Phillies, who then offered to mail her a signed item, ESPN's Marly Rivera notes.
  • The Phillies are amid a 28-game stretch in which they face a National League East opponent 21 times. After Sunday, the Phillies will not play the Braves again until June 14-16 at SunTrust Park.
  • Newly acquired bullpen arm David Robertson has struggled thus far; in two appearances, he has allowed six of 11 batters faced to reach base.
  • Braves right fielder Nick Markakis — who re-signed with the club to a one-year, $6 million contract in January, has just two hits in his 16 career at-bats opposite Arrieta (.125/.176/.188). In 2018, Markakis earned his first career All-Star nod, his first Silver Slugger Award and his third Gold Glove Award.


What's Next:

  • Tuesday, April 2, 2019: at Washington Nationals, 7:05 p.m.
    • Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
    • RHP Zach Eflin vs. RHP Max Scherzer (0-1, 2.35 ERA)
    • TV: NBCSP+; Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP


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