Going into my first Phillies game of the 2023 season [that actually counted, with no offense towards Spring Training], my cautious optimism was flanked with a dose of harsh reality.
On one hand, this match against the Detroit Tigers, a similar team with way less perks, seemed like a very winnable effort, especially with Aaron Nola on the mound. The Phils had just crushed Washington, the Tigers had just been walked off, the teams were going in opposite directions and it seemed like the exact environment this team could thrive in. On the other hand, this also seemed like the exact kind of game the Phils could blow easily. I mean, a Tigers team without Riley Greene, starting Joey Wentz, with a huge chunk of the lineup below .225, and Jake Marisnick somehow getting the start in center? It's a trojan horse. You think you can take them and they dominate you.
So I was hoping for the best while also knowing what kind of team I was banking on. The Phils have let me down before, and yet there I was anyway.
These were my sightlines, by the way. I am firm in my belief that Citizens Bank Park is still one of the nicest places to catch a game, and with a full crowd, a new scoreboard and a beautiful night for a game, it felt even better. This was one of those nights where everything felt better, the stadium fries were hot, the water ice was sweeter, and everything seemed to fall into place. Plus, in honor of ALS awareness night, Tim Kurkjian was in the house, and as much as I kid him for his useless knowledge, having him on the field, and eventually in the booth, was kinda cool.
We were with a few colleagues of my dad, and one of them got a few packs of Heritage for their kids. I peered at some of the cards, and I do think it looks cool this year. It'll be a while til it actually winds up at Target on a day I swing by there, probably, but I'll try to get some eventually.
As for the game, basically everything I was feeling about this matchup was accurate. Joey Wentz, the no-name Tigers starter, got lit up repeatedly, giving up scorching RBIs to Trea Turner and Bryce Harper, and tossing softies that almost went deep on multiple occasions. Even for a game with actual home runs in it, seeing both Harper and Kyle Schwarber deck balls only for Jake Marisnick to rob them both times was a little disappointing. Marisnick had an excellent defensive day in center, and made me despise him just as much as I did when he was with Houston.
But Marisnick didn't have much luck at the plate. Though...neither did most of the Tigers lineup. Through 6 innings, none of them even mustered a hit against Aaron Nola.
Nola was a Phils starter I'd been hoping to see, as I'd seen most of the other ones live recently [Suarez, Wheeler, Falter], and...kinda wanted to avoid Taijuan Walker seeing as he hasn't been great recently. And so we finally got a Nola start, and the big man from Louisiana delivered, going hitless up until a MAMMOTH bomb by, of all people, former Phillie Nick Maton. Nola struck out 12 Tigers, and looked better than he's been in a while. Admittedly, Thomson shouldn't have let him come back out for the 7th, as he looked tired and his high pitch count did lead to him breaking up the no-no, but seeing as both Seranthony Dominguez and Andrew Vazquez both gave up hits on the road to scorelessness, it may have been broken up either way.
The hero of the game, and it was about time, was Trea Turner. A colleague of my dad's said to me 'all I want is for him to go 4 for 5 one of these days and jumpstart it', and that's exactly what he did tonight. 4 hits, including 2 home runs, the second of which was a colossal bomb that we couldn't quite track the landing of. Then, right at the end of the game he had an incredible catch to stop a liner in the ninth, on top of all the hitting he'd done. Turner NEEDED a night like this to get in the Phillies fans' good graces, and I think he's finally coming into his own here. I'm just glad I could be there to witness it.
The Phils left with a 8-3 victory, the only runs coming from Nick Maton's homer, with great performances from almost the entire lineup. It was a welcome home win that felt earned, and kept me smiling throughout. I was bracing myself for the alternative, but the Phillies not only got the best of an easy win situation, but they made it interesting and fun. And that's all I could have asked for.
Not sure when I'll be back at CBP, but I'm voting enough for the All-Star Game that I've gotta be getting a discount code eventually.