PHILADELPHIA -- People in Philadelphia still talk about the old A’s.
Those conversations happen less frequently as time passes, of course. The A’s moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City in 1954, and only 304,666 fans watched them play that final season at Connie Mack Stadium. But as the Phillies and Oakland A’s open the 2022 season on Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, it is fun to think back to a time when Philadelphia was a two-team baseball town.
These days, baseball fans in Philadelphia are thinking about one thing: the Phillies getting to the postseason for the first time since 2011. The organization fumbled its rebuild under former leadership, but it believes Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will push the right buttons and snap the streak. Dombrowski created palpable buzz this offseason, when he signed Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to boost the lineup, and added Corey Knebel, Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia to stabilize the bullpen.
Maybe they can help Bryce Harper and Co. finally break into October.
The A’s, meanwhile, have made the postseason six times since the Phillies last played an inning of meaningful October baseball. Six. But the A’s are rebuilding again, even after winning 86 games last season. Former manager Bob Melvin and Sean Manaea are with the Padres. Matt Olson is with the Braves. Matt Chapman is with the Blue Jays. Chris Bassitt is with the Mets.
But if the A’s are down, they typically are not down long. Maybe they will surprise the Phillies this weekend in the city they used to call home.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET/12:05 PT on Friday. It will be broadcast nationally on MLB Network. Phillies fans can watch locally on NBC Sports Philadelphia and listen on 94 WIP. A's fans can watch on NBC Sports Bay Area and listen on A's Cast.
**The starting lineups
Who are the starting pitchers?
A’s: Frankie Montas will get the ball on Opening Day for the second time in three years, also receiving the honor for Oakland in 2020. The nod is deserved, as the right-hander finished sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting last season after racking up 207 strikeouts in 187 innings. Montas also emerged as a workhorse and tied for the AL lead with 32 games started while ranking among the AL leaders in innings pitched (3rd), strikeouts (4th), ERA (4th, 3.37), home runs per nine innings (4th, 0.963), strikeouts per nine innings (6th, 9.963) and hits per nine innings (7th, 7.893).
Montas’ name continuously popped up in trade rumors this spring as several teams inquired about his services. For now, he remains in Oakland, with a chance to become a hot commodity at the Trade Deadline should the club find itself out of contention.
Phillies: Philies right-hander Aaron Nola will make his fifth consecutive Opening Day start. (NL Cy Young runner-up Zack Wheeler would have been the guy, but he is behind schedule and will pitch the fifth game of the season instead.) No Phillies pitcher has made more Opening Day starts since Steve Carlton made 10 in a row from 1977-86.
Nola is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2021. He went 9-9 with a 4.63 ERA in 32 starts. It was the fifth-highest ERA among qualifying pitchers. But he also had a 3.39 xERA, 3.37 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and 3.47 DRA- (Deserved Runs Average). Each of those numbers tells a similar story: Nola pitched better than his ERA. He got hurt at times making too many mistakes with two strikes. He allowed a National League-leading 82 two-strike hits in 2021. Three of his 82 two-strike hits were 0-2 home runs. If he cleans it up, Nola and Wheeler provide a formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation.
How might the bullpens line up after the starter?
A’s: The bullpen underwent a complete overhaul this offseason as it lost several members from last year’s relief core to free agency. Lou Trivino, who saved 22 games in an up-and-down 2021 campaign, returns as the expected closer, while Domingo Acevedo should slot in as a late-inning option. The rest is a new cast featuring a trio of power arms: A.J. Puk, Zach Jackson and Dany Jiménez. Others relievers include Kirby Snead, Sam Moll, Jacob Lemoine and Justin Grimm.
Phillies: The Phillies’ bullpen has been their Achilles heel for years. So, Dombrowski invested $22 million in closer Corey Knebel and setup men Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia. Girardi recently called right-hander Seranthony Domínguez the surprise of camp. He has pitched well, and if he carries that performance into the season, they will have another big arm to use in the later innings. Left-hander José Alvarado pitched only a couple times at the end of camp, but he is another hard thrower at Girardi’s disposal.
Any injuries of note?
A’s: Deolis Guerra (forearm tightness) and Brent Honeywell Jr. (elbow issue), both of whom were expected to be a part of the Opening Day pitching staff, sustained injuries during Spring Training that required surgery and will cause them to miss the start of the season. James Kaprielian (AC joint irritation) got a late start to camp and will continue to build up at Triple-A Las Vegas. The expectation is that the right-hander will join the A’s rotation by the end of April.
Phillies: Right-hander Sam Coonrod (right shoulder), left-hander Ryan Sherriff (biceps tendinitis) and outfielder Odúbel Herrera (strained right quad) are expected to open the season on the injured list. Right-hander James Norwood left the team late last week because of personal reasons. There is no timetable for his return. Outfielder Mickey Moniak opens the season on the injured list after suffering a hairline fracture in his right hand.
Who's hot and who's not?
A’s: Murphy refined his setup at the plate this offseason and went on a tear through the Cactus League, entering the final two games of Spring Training hitting .520 (13-for-25) with a 1.567 OPS, two home runs and six doubles. Neuse (.344 batting average, four homers) and Smith (.333, three homers) also secured their spots on the roster with hot springs at the plate. On the other end, Brown, an expected everyday player this season, got off to a slow start at the plate by hitting .125 (4-for-32) through his first 11 games.
Phillies: Harper, Realmuto, Hoskins, Gregorius, Castellanos, and Stott each entered the final week of camp with an .800 OPS or better. Eflin has thrown the ball well. Knebel and Domínguez have fared well in the bullpen.
Anything else fans might want to know?
This Opening Day marks the first time the A’s open a season in Philadelphia since April 13, 1954, when the then-Philadelphia A’s defeated the Boston Red Sox, 6-4. It is also Oakland’s first Opening Day against a National League team and the first time it has been the visiting team in an opener since 2009.