How exciting have these first two games been?
The Phillies, thanks to their dynamic and deep lineup, have won their season-opening series for the first time since 2011. Now, they go for the sweep against a Braves team they will not see again for quite some time.
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And they'll attempt to do it in the national spotlight.
When: 7 p.m. on ESPN
Pitching matchup: Jake Arrieta vs. RHP Kyle Wright
The Phillies face a Braves rookie right-hander for the second straight game. Wright was the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Vanderbilt. He's coming off a solid minor-league season spent mostly at Double A. This is Wright's first major-league start.
Arrieta has a lot to prove
Arrieta last season had the highest one-year salary in Phillies history at $30 million. He helped the Phillies' rotation but did not meet expectations, posting a 3.96 ERA and averaging 5.6 innings per start.
Arrieta was very good in April (3.49 ERA), May (0.90) and July (2.80) but struggled badly in June (6.66) and September (6.39). The Phillies' defense did him no favors but Arrieta was also just wild and hittable at times.
His pitches have tremendous movement; that was true even before he broke out with the Cubs. His sinker dances, freezes hitters on both sides of the plate and again last season resulted in the highest groundball rate in all of the National League: 51.6 percent.
But Arrieta has to be better for the Phillies in 2019 for this team to get where it wants to go. There's no doubt about that. He doesn't need to be a Cy Young candidate. But another season with an ERA approaching 4.00 would be a disappointment.
Think about what we've witnessed these first two games. The Phillies already have home runs from Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Maikel Franco (two) and Andrew McCutchen.
Jean Segura already has four hits.
The 6-7-8 hitters have combined to reach base in 12 of 24 plate appearances and drive in nine runs.
From an offensive standpoint, these first two games could not have been scripted any better.
Harper's homer, by the way, was the second-farthest hit ball of his career. The only ball he's ever hit farther than 465 feet was a 473-footer off Nick Pivetta at Nationals Park last May.
No Braves for a while
While the Phillies play 11 of their next 14 games against division rivals, they will not see the Braves again until June 14-16 in Atlanta. They'll play 65 games between now and then.
There's obviously a ton of baseball left to play after this weekend, but with how tough the NL East is going to be and the long layoff before the Phils see the Braves again, winning this series carries some importance.
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