Phillies eye 1st opening series win since 2011 in rubber match


SunTrust Park opened exactly one year ago, as the Atlanta Braves faced the New York Yankees in an exhibition game on March 31, 2017. The Philadelphia Phillies are 6-5 at the venue, which replaced the Braves' former home of 20 seasons, Turner Field (Thomas Cizauskas/Flickr Creative Commons).

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Having split the first two games of the season, the Philadelphia Phillies (1-1) and Atlanta Braves (1-1) will face off in the opening series finale Saturday evening at SunTrust Park. Right-handers Vince Velasquez and Brandon McCarthy receive the starting nods, as both pitchers make their respective season-opening and SunTrust Park debuts.

The Phillies captured their first win of the season in a back-and-forth, 11-inning affair late Friday evening. Like Opening Day, Rhys Hoskins produced the game's first run — a home run to left. Fellow slugger Carlos Santana picked up his first RBI as a Phillie in the third with a sacrifice fly to right. A pair of ex-Phillies helped tie the game at two in the third, with a RBI double by Ryan Flaherty and sacrifice fly RBI by Ender Inciarte. Dansby Swanson lifted the Braves on top an inning later with a RBI single, however Santana and Nick Williams returned the favor in the fifth and sixth with a home run and RBI single, respectively. The game evened once again in the eighth with a Preston Tucker RBI single and would remain tied until the 11th, when Santana produced his third and game-winning RBI via another sacrifice fly — this time to former Phillie Peter Bourjos in left.

Starter Nick Pivetta allowed three runs (all earned) on five hits, two walks and three strikeouts in four innings. Eight Phillies relievers combined for seven innings, allowing just four hits, one run and three walks while striking out six. Luis Garcia suffered the blown save, while late roster addition Drew Hutchison earned the win with two shutout innings in the 10th and 11th.

Phillies No. 2 prospect Scott Kingery collected his first MLB hit on Friday on a single to center in the fourth, while making his first career start (third base). Kingery finished 2-5 with a strikeout and 17 pitches seen. Kingery will make his second MLB start on Saturday at a different position: shortstop. Jorge Alfaro will also receive his first start of the season as catcher.

The Phillies will look for the first opening series win since 2011, when they swept the then-National League-affiliated Houston Astros in a three-game home series behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Thus far in this year's opening series, the Phillies have been outscored and outhit by the Braves, 12-10 and 18-16, respectively.

Starting Pitching Matchup:

Philadelphia Phillies (1-1) Atlanta Braves (1-1)
RHP Vince Velasquez RHP Brandon McCarthy
(2017: 11-14, 4.45 ERA) (2017: 6-4, 3.98 ERA)

RHP Vince Velasquez, Age: 25

  • Career vs. ATL: 0-1, 2.77 ERA, 4 G, 4 GS, 26 IP, 24 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 24 SO, 1.154 WHIP
  • Career at SunTrust Park: N/A

Velasquez will make his fifth career start against the Braves and his first at SunTrust Park. The Montclair, California, native allowed only one run over his last four spring starts, striking out 13 batters in 12 2/3 combined innings.

The right-hander enters his fourth big league season. Velasquez was limited to just 15 starts in his second full season with the Phillies in 2017 due to suffering a mild right flexor strain and right middle finger numbness.

The Phillies acquired Velasquez from the Astros in December of 2015, along with since-departed Brett Oberholtzer, in exchange for closer Ken Giles and minor leaguer Jonathan Arauz. Through 58 career games and 258 2/3 innings, Velasquez is 11-14 with a 4.45 ERA, 278-100 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.365 WHIP.

VelasqRHP Brandon McCarthy, Age: 34

  • Career vs. PHI: 0-1, 2.70 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 20 IP, 22 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 20 SO, 1.200 WHIP
  • Career at SunTrust Park: N/A

McCarthy begins his 13th big league season and his first with the Braves. The right-hander allowed one run or less in three of his four Grapefruit League starts this spring, allowing only seven runs (six earned) in 15 2/3 innings.

The Glendale, California, native was dealt from the Los Angeles Dodgers to Atlanta on Dec. 16 — along with Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson and cash — in exchange for Matt Kemp. The Braves released Gonzalez on Dec. 18, who later agreed to a deal with the New York Mets on Jan. 13. The Braves released Kazmir, who faced the Phillies in the 2008 World Series, on March 24.

Despite logging 240 games and 1,145 innings in his career, McCarthy will make his first appearance in Atlanta on Saturday. McCarthy is 63-72 in his career with a 4.15 ERA, 843-302 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.289 WHIP. McCarthy made his first postseason appearance during last year's World Series, where in one relief inning against the Astros the right-hander allowed two runs on two hits, one being a home run. 

Starting Lineups:

Philadelphia Phillies (1-1) Atlanta Braves (1-1)
  Position Player Bats   Position Player Bats
1 2B Cesar Hernandez S 1 CF Ender Inciarte L
2 1B Carlos Santana S 2 2B Ozzie Albies S
3 CF Odubel Herrera L 3 1B Freddie Freeman L
4 LF Rhys Hoskins R 4 RF Nick Markakis L
5 RF Aaron Altherr R 5 LF Preston Tucker L
6 SS Scott Kingery R 6 SS Dansby Swanson R
7 3B Maikel Franco R 7 3B Ryan Flaherty L
8 C Jorge Alfaro R 8 C Chris Stewart R
9 P Vince Velasquez R 9 P Brandon McCarthy R

Broadcast Information:

  • First pitch: 7:10 p.m.
  • Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP

Game Notes:

  • The Phillies are tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the most stolen bases thus far, 3. The club is also tied with the Diamondbacks and Astros for the third-most walks, 11.
  • Matt Gelb, The Athletic: "The Phillies set a major-league record by using 15 pitchers in their first two games."
  • Hoskins' home run in the second inning on Friday marks his 19th career long ball in just 52 games. He doubled twice on Opening Day and is one of five players to have three or more extra base hits thus far in 2018, joining: Xander Bogaerts (4), Kris Bryant (3), Matt Davidson (3) and Giancarlo Stanton (3).

  • Despite the Braves entering Opening Day with three catchers on their 25-man roster — Tyler FlowersChris Stewart and Kurt Suzuki — Stewart remains the only one uninjured. Flowers exited Thursday's opener with left oblique discomfort (strain) and was placed on the 10-day disabled list the following day. Suzuki, meanwhile, was forced to leave Friday's game after being hit by a pitch on his right hand. Suzuki stayed in the game for two innings but later left with his hand "pretty bruised up," per manager Brian Snitker. Suzuki will be re-evaluated on Saturday if a disabled list stint is needed.
  • Phillies on disabled list:
    • RHP Pat Neshek (10-day, right shoulder strain)
    • RHP Mark Leiter Jr. (10-day, right forearm strain)
    • RHP Tommy Hunter (10-day, mild/Grade 1 right hamstring strain)
    • RHP Jerad Eickhoff (10-day, strained right lat)
  • No active member of the Braves has yet to homer off Velasquez in their respective careers. Only Flowers (inactive, 10-day disabled list) and outfielder Nick Markakis have produced an extra-base hit off the Phillies right-hander, a double each. Markakis also accounts for the only RBI against Velasquez (2). Active Phillies, meanwhile, have had success against McCarthy. Santana is 3-13 lifetime with a home run, two RBI and two walks, while Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera have a double each spanning three respective at-bats.

Career vs.

What's Next:

  • Sunday, April 1: Off day (Easter)
  • Monday, April 2, 2018: at New York Mets, 7:10 p.m.
    • Citi Field, Queens, N.Y.
    • RHP Ben Lively vs. RHP Matt Harvey
    • TV: NBCSP; Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP