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5 thoughts on Phillies' Opening Day win

@ToddZolecki
March 29, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- So much happened on Opening Day on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, besides Bryce Harper’s debut and blasts from Rhys Hoskins and Andrew McCutchen. The Phillies do not play Friday before resuming play Saturday afternoon, so let’s take a look back at a few things that might have

PHILADELPHIA -- So much happened on Opening Day on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, besides Bryce Harper’s debut and blasts from Rhys Hoskins and Andrew McCutchen.

The Phillies do not play Friday before resuming play Saturday afternoon, so let’s take a look back at a few things that might have been underserved following an impressive 10-4 victory over the Braves:

1. Jean Segura
Last season, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler wanted his two best hitters hitting second and fourth because he felt he needed to squeeze every statistical advantage he could from his offense. That no longer is the case, which is why he has the contact-machine Segura hitting second. Segura created havoc Thursday, reaching second on a single and an error from Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson in the fourth. Segura advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run on Odubel Herrera’s single to left.

Segura then hit a ball to pitcher Luke Jackson in the seventh. Jackson rushed his throw, and the ball got away from Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. McCutchen advanced to third and Segura advanced to second. The Braves intentionally walked Harper to load the bases, setting up Hoskins’ grand slam.

2. The eight-hole
A few fans grumbled about Kapler hitting Maikel Franco eighth because they thought he would not see any fastballs hitting ahead of the pitcher. Their concerns disregarded the fact that Franco hit .359 with two home runs, eight RBIs and a 1.021 OPS in 17 games there last season. Yes, it is a small sample size, but Franco seems comfortable hitting eighth. He hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning, giving the Phillies a 6-1 lead.

“If I hit in the three-hole or eight-hole or five-hole, I just go out there and I don't think about it,” Franco said. “I try to do my job. I had a lot of success in the eight-hole, but I don't know where that's coming from. I understand they're not going to give me a good pitch, and I'm just trying to make a good judgment. I don't think about anything. Just go out there and make a good judgment and know what they're going to give to me and try to be ready every single day.”

Franco smiled brightly Thursday. Think he isn’t happy the Phillies signed Harper instead of Manny Machado, keeping him at third base in Philadelphia?

3. Hector Neris
Neris is a wild card in the bullpen. Which one will show up this season? The one who got optioned twice to Triple-A last June, posting a 6.90 ERA in 33 appearances and allowing 11 home runs in 30 innings? Or the one who rejoined the Phillies in August, posting a 2.04 ERA and striking out 34 in 17 2/3 innings?

Neris struck out 17 and walked two in 9 2/3 innings this spring. But he also allowed nine hits, five runs and three home runs. He then allowed a two-run homer to Braves pinch-hitter Matt Joyce on Thursday.

Kapler views Neris as a late-inning weapon. It is just one relief appearance in a 162-game season, but the Phillies need Neris to be more consistent to become a reliable option for Kapler in high-leverage situations.

4. The ace
It was encouraging to see Aaron Nola compete without his best stuff. He walked a career-high five batters, but he held the Braves to only one run in six innings. He looked a little like Roy Halladay out there, when he grinded through a start and won, even without his best stuff.

“You’re not going to be dominating all the time and you’re going to have games where you have to battle through innings and battle through hitters more times than not,” Nola said. “The second inning I had to battle. I walked three in that inning, and they took some good pitches and scattered a couple of hits. I’m going to run into those kinds of outings. I scratched together a pretty good game.”

5. What’s next for Bryce?
Harper arrived at the ballpark Thursday morning wearing a Phanatic/Gritty “Pulp Fiction” T-shirt. He wore green Phanatic cleats. He has worn Phanatic socks. What’s next?

How about a green Phanatic bat on Players' Weekend?

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .