PHILADELPHIA – So many people expected J.T. Realmuto to receive a record-breaking contract this offseason from the Mets.
New York signed James McCann instead.
Months later, the Phillies signed Realmuto to a five-year, $115.5 million deal, making him the highest-paid catcher in baseball history. It could be a fun little storyline over the next several years as the Phillies and Mets compete in the National League East. Imagine, for instance, if Realmuto torments the Mets like Chase Utley did. He beat up the Mets in the Phillies' 8-2 victory Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. Realmuto, who had five RBIs in the series, walked and scored on Alec Bohm’s three-run home run in the first inning and hit a three-run home run to right field in the fifth.
“I know a lot of teams wish they could have got him,” Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola said. “We’re fortunate that we got him for the next several years. A good guy, a good guy to work with. Obviously, a super athlete, a great baseball player, a great catcher. Yeah, he’s a special teammate.”
“We’re all extremely happy that J.T. is here,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said.
The Phillies are happy to be 5-1, too. They won their first two series to open a season for the first time since 2011. They flew to Atlanta on Wednesday night to open a three-game series Friday against the Braves. They follow the Atlanta series with a four-game series next week against the Mets in New York.
It will be another good test against two teams predicted to finish 1-2 in the NL East.
“It’s playing your brand of baseball,” Girardi said about how they can win on the road.
The Phillies look like a team that can win in many ways. They got excellent starting pitching over the weekend against the Braves. The Phillies’ offense had been quiet until Wednesday. It entered the game 10th in the National League in runs per game (3.60) and 11th in slugging percentage (.346). It ranked fifth in batting average (.259) and sixth in on-base percentage (.344), which gave them comfort because they know if they get on base the runs will come.
Rhys Hoskins’ solo home run to right field in the first inning handed the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Bryce Harper followed, crushing a double off the right-field wall at 116.3 mph, his second-hardest hit since he joined the Phillies and the fourth-hardest hit in baseball this season. Two batters later, Bohm hit his first homer of the year.
“They've got good hitters over there,” Mets left-hander David Peterson said. “When you make mistakes, they're going to make you pay for it."
Hoskins hit his second double of the game to start the fifth. Harper dropped a perfect bunt up the first-base line to put runners at the corners. Realmuto crushed the first pitch from Jacob Barnes into the right-field stands for his first homer of the season.
They picked up Nola, who grinded through four innings. He threw 92 pitches, but he allowed only one run.
“I did everything I could today to keep the game at 1,” Nola said.
The bullpen did the rest. This time Connor Brogdon, Archie Bradley, Sam Coonrod and Héctor Neris combined to allow one run in five innings. The Phillies’ bullpen has a 3.27 ERA through six games. The rotation has a 2.18 ERA.
“It’s awesome,” Nola said about the bullpen’s early run. “Those guys have come in and shut the door this first week. It’s been fun to watch them. They come in and they pound the zone. They’re not afraid to pound the zone. We expect that to keep on going.”
And if Wednesday served as the kick the offense needed, the rest of the team could benefit, too.