Opening day of the 2021 season will be one the Braves want to forget, as the Phillies fought their way to a 3-2 win over Atlanta to start the all-new baseball season.
The first story in this game centered around Max Fried’s struggle to pass five innings while keeping the Braves in the game. Things started badly in the first inning, as Fried found himself in an almost loaded base situation. at once. There were certainly concerns that it was going to be a rough day for Fried when two of those baserunners hit Bryce Harper and an HBP first pitch against JT Realmuto. So it was a huge relief to see Fried come out of the first inning with Philadelphia only scoring a sacrificial fly.
Fried found himself in a similar mess once the third inning rolled out. Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper both had a goal with a double and a single, respectively – which allowed Hoskins to score on an absolute dribbler of a Realmuto ground ball. Harper tried to stretch the shot into another base, but Austin Riley managed to score it on his lower leg to get the lead runner out. Fried then punched out Didi Gregorius to escape again what could have been a big Philly round with only minor damage.
For a while, it seemed like all luck was going to Philadelphia in this one. On the very first pitch of the game, Ronald Acuña Jr. absolutely smoked one in left field. While this seemed like a great opportunity to poke fun at Chip Caray for being duped on another flying ball, the wind really did Acuña no favor by killing the ball on the warning lane. Dansby Swanson was also deprived of a big blow in the next set, as he crushed one that looked destined to break through the fence in left field. Instead, he died on the warning trail and the Braves were once again disappointed.
Meanwhile, Realmuto’s aforementioned RBI single recorded a blistering output speed of 61.6 miles per hour. As the Braves hit balls all around the diamond, the Phillies found holes with the softest contact and were rewarded with them. So while Max Fried might not have showcased his best stuff today, he still did well to make sure the Phillies didn’t throw him and he was still able to come out of jams by leaning on him. on strikeouts. Fried finished the day with eight strikeouts and just two runs allowed in five innings, which is perfectly acceptable given the conditions and the fact that Mother Nature and the baseball gods apparently conspired against him with the conditions and luck, respectively.
The Phillies held onto their two-point lead until the seventh inning. Until then, Aaron Nola was having another good day against the Braves with no signs of slowing down. Indeed, he picked up the first two strikeouts of the second with little to no problem and was ready to take over on opening day until the eighth inning. Then Cristian Pache chipped Nola’s armor with a lucky brace from a broken bat in central field. This set the stage for Pablo Sandoval to make his first appearance this new season. The Braves may have been stolen all day up to this point when it comes to putting the balls into play, but Sandoval was nothing wrong when he turned on a fastball from Nola and the ‘filed in the seats of the right field. . Just like that, the game was tied and the Braves at least had something to show for all the hard contact they had made all day.
From that point on, things returned to a frustration mode for the Braves lineup. They couldn’t take advantage of an effectively savage Jose Alvarado in the eighth inning, and Ozzie Albies was deprived of a single with two outs in the ninth inning by an incredible take from Didi Gregorius. Meanwhile, the Atlanta relieving box worked admirably to keep the Phillies at bay for the latter stages of the game. It was really encouraging to see Will Smith continue his spring training into a particularly strong start to the regular season. It’s still early days, but that’s exactly what the Braves expected from Will Smith after signing him ahead of the 2020 season.
The match ultimately ended with extra innings, and the tenth inning summed up the game in one word. When the Braves had their turn with a runner in second to get things going, Freddie Freeman moved Ozzie with a productive out. Marcell Ozuna came to plate and kicked a shallow ball to Roman Quinn in the center field. While it’s doubtful for Ozzie to run, you must think he would have if he had run at full speed from the moment he left third base. Unfortunately, he hesitated a bit on his way to home plate and Quinn’s pitch was on the money for the third out.
The Phillies started the 10th the same way, and Jean Segura blocked one that barely escaped Austin Riley to bring Bryce Harper from third base at the end of the game. It was a frustrating day for the Braves and Phillies winning the game on a stroke that had an xBA of .130 (while also scoring their first inning on a sacrificed volley and their second inning on a single that had an xBA of .100 .) matched how this whole game went for the Braves.
The good news is this is only the first game of 162, so it has nothing to do with the sense of urgency that last season’s 60-game sprint had. So there’s a good chance this is just a minor footnote for the Braves this season. Still, you still want to win on Open Day just for the good vibes that come with it, so it’s a slight disappointment that the Braves played out on Open Day in such a frustrating way. Hopefully Saturday will have better luck for the road team as the Braves continue to get things started in 2021.