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April 03, 2023

Five awards from the Phillies' series loss to the Rangers

From an Aaron Nola meltdown to a Phillies positional player pitching, we hand out five awards from the Phillies' series loss to the Texas Rangers.

The Phillies' defense of the National League pennant has gotten off to a rocky start, as the Texas Rangers swept them over the weekend in the team's season-opening series. The Phillies gave up 29 runs, the most by any team so far in Major League Baseball (in a super-duper small-sample size, of course). 

The series' final scores:

Date Rangers  Phillies
Thurs. 3/30 11 
Sat. 4/1 16 
Sun. 4/2 

Not great!

To recap a rough beginning to the 2023 season, here are five awards from the Fightins' series loss down in Texas...

The "Mid-Game Meltdown" Award: Aaron Nola 🤦

In a bid to silence his harshest critics in this fan base, Aaron Nola fell way short on Opening Day. Nola didn't allow a single hit in his first three innings on Thursday, striking out four batters. The fourth inning, however, proved disastrous. As the Rangers' lineup flipped over, Texas rocked the Phils for a nine-run inning with Nola allowing five of those, getting yanked before the fourth inning ended. The fact that the Phillies were up 5-0 entering the bottom of the fourth only worsens matters. 

Opening Day was a microcosm of the debate around Nola. His stuff is nasty and, a lot of the time, he looks like one of the best pitchers in baseball. Too often though, he'll have these random middle of the game innings where he gets shelled. I know a pitcher isn't going to have a stud outing every single start, but this is too frequent of an occurrence for a guy with the billing of an "ace."

This isn't an overreaction to Opening Day as much as it is a contemplation on Nola's Phillies tenure. His 4.91 postseason ERA lingers in my mind the same way his 2022 season where he finished fourth in Cy Young voting does. 

The "Triples Machine" Award: Trea Turner 3️⃣

If a Phillies fan is searching for some silver linings in this sweep, look no further than shortstop Trea Turner in his debut for the Fightins. In 14 plate appearances across these three games, Turner hit .385 with an on-base percentage of .429 and a slugging percentage of .769. He also legged out two triples. 

Turner's speed is an underrated aspect of his signing in Philly. Turner has twice led the National League in steals and is their best base-runner since the Golden Era days. Jimmy Rollins was a speed demon there, but Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino were also smart, savvy base-runners who could efficiently swipe bags and make going first-to-third on a single a formality. That's been missed for the Phillies.

The "I Didn't Sign Up for This" Award: Josh Harrison 🤷

Any Phillies fan hoping for a relaxing Saturday watching some baseball paired with the beautiful early afternoon spring weather throughout the Delaware Valley got a rude awakening. Texas destroyed the Phils 16-3. The Phillies used seven pitchers in all, most notably utility infielder Josh Harrison who finished out the ninth inning in a game where defeat was guaranteed.

Harrison has the undistinguished honor of being the first positional player to pitch in the majors in 2023, as that usually happens when a team is getting destroyed and doesn't want to waste their bullpen arms. Surprisingly, Harrison didn't surrender a single run, allowing two hits and one walk in 0.2 innings of work. 

No shade meant for Harrison, but Wilson Valdez's status as the most beloved Phillies position player to ever pitch in a game remains unchallenged. 

The "This Isn't a Real Stadium" Award: Globe Life Field 🏟️

Watching these three games on television, I could not tell whether a ball was a groundout to second base or a shot in the outfield gap with the shadows at play in Arlington. Globe Life Stadium has a retractable roof and the Phillies were still dealing with these less-than-ideal conditions. I can't imagine what it was like trying to differentiate a fastball from a late-breaking slider or actually trying to play the field. 

"The Ballpark in Arlington" was such a great name for the Rangers' old stadium, too. All these parks named after financial services and banks stink (my apologies to the core four Philly sports teams here). 

The "You Do You" Award: Phillies fans 😡

Amidst the Phillies 13-run loss on Saturday, I saw a fierce debate among Phillies fans on Twitter about whether the anger surrounding this team just a few days into this season is unwarranted. My take? Feel however the hell you want about the team getting swept. 

You can simultaneously be aware that this three-game season doesn't truly affect the Phils' long-term prospects of getting back to the World Series while still being allowed to get riled up about things on a game-by-game bias. That's the essence of being a fan. It's based on irrationality! If you're not going to go through the full range of emotions, you're not giving into the city's collective id, which separates the Philadelphia sports scene from everywhere else in the world. 

No fan wanted to see the Phillies get swept after the euphoria of last fall's pennant run. This weekend was undoubtedly disappointing. 

I'm not advising to react to each of the Phillies' 65+ losses this season with the same fervor of an Eagles 27-17 Sunday Night Football loss to the Cowboys, but losing stinks. You're allowed to be mad about losing! I don't know how that's controversial. 

On deck... Bronx Bombers 💣

Monday night, the Phillies start their three-game set against the Yankees (2-1) up in New York. Here are the probable pitchers for the series:

 DatePhillies  Yankees
4/3, 7:05 p.m.Taijuan Walker (R)  Nestor Cortes (L) 
4/4, 7:05 p.m.Matt Strahm (L)  Domingo German (R)
4/5, 1:05 p.m. Aaron Nola (R) Gerrit Cole (R) 

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