Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 5_14_10 AM

Braves 7, Phillies 5: Utley shines in Opening Day loss

W: Avilan (1-0, 0.00 ERA) L: Hamels (0-1, 9.00 ERA) SV: Kimbrel (1)

Chase Utley hit his 200th career home run and was a double shy of baseball's first Opening Day cycle since 1950, but his impressive 2013 debut was not enough to get the Phillies started on the right foot in Atlanta. Cole Hamels allowed three home runs in a 7-5 Opening Day loss to the Braves.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman launched a two-run home run in to right field with two outs in the first inning to give the Braves a quick 2-0 lead. Dan Uggla led off the second inning with a massive shot to left field and Freeman again struck with two outs in the third inning with an RBI single. Justin Upton later added a solo home run in his Braves debut in the fifth inning, after the Phillies had cut the Braves lead to 4-3. For Hamels, getting out of an inning and the critical shutdown innings were a struggle in the ace's 2013 season debut. Hamels said after the game that he was unable to establish his fastball.

"You have to be able to establish the fastball down in the zone, and I wasn't able to do that as much as I'd like," Hamels said in postgame interviews (MLB.com). "Most of the pitches that were hit out were fastballs up in the zone. I want to claim that's uncharacteristic, but there are times when you have to be able to make the adjustment and I wasn't able to make the adjustment fast enough."

I'm not worried about Hamels. You should not be either. Not after one game of course.

While the Braves took the win, the story of the night from the Philadelphia side was Utley, who reached second base on an RBI single and stretched a double in to a triple, showing that his legs may be in pretty good shape. He also muscled a solo home run over the head of B.J. Upton to dead center field for the first Phillies home run of the season.

"That was classic Chase," Ryan Howard said.

While I do not want to get carried away with Hamels and his rough debut, I also want to take Utley's impressive season debut in stride. But boy was it fun to watch.

The Good

Chase Utley got the Phillies on the board with a solo home run in the fourth inning to dead center field and he picked up three RBI on the night to give the Phillies a puncher's chance. Utley was 3-for-5 on the night with a home run, a triple and a two RBI single.

Jeremy Horst allowed one hit and struck out two in two innings of relief after Chad Durbin ran in to quick trouble in the sixth inning. Horst minimized the damage in a tough situation, throwing 12 strikes out of 17 pitches.

The Bad

Cole Hamels allowed three home runs in his season debut, helping to dig an early hole for the Phillies right out of the start of the game. Hamels has a history of rough season debuts though and this just adds to his bizarre trend. Hamels will be just fine, but he had a rough season debut on the mound in Atlanta.

Ryan Howard was 0-for-5 in the season opener with one strikeout.

Chad Durbin returned to Atlanta but had a forgettable season debut. Durbin was charged for two runs on two hits and one walk on just eight pitches in the sixth inning. The runs allowed by Durbin turned out to be the difference in the game, although Hamels was pegged for the loss.

The Ugly

The defense left something to be desired in the opener. While the team did not record an official error, there were some mishaps at the corners in the infield and outfield. The defense was uncharacteristically down in 2012 and the spring was not exactly a defensive clinic.

National League East Update

Bryce Harper homered in each of his first two at-bats of the 2013 season and Stephen Strasburg was efficiently dominant at home to lead the Washington Nationals to a 2-0 season opening victory over the Miami Marlins. The performances of Harper and Strasburg may have overshadowed the fact that the Nationals managed just three hits from the rest of the lineup against a team expected to be left in the distance in the division.

In New York the Mets pounded the San Diego Padres by the score of 11-2. Collin Cowgill provided the exclamation mark with a two-out seventh inning grand slam and Jon Niese picked up the win after pitching 6.2 innings and allowing two runs and striking out four.

Place Team W L GB
1 Atlanta Braves 1 0 -
  New York Mets 1 0 -
  Washington Nationals 1 0 -
4 Miami Marlins 0 1 1.0
  Philadelphia Phillies 0 1 1.0

What's Next?

Roy Halladay gets the start Wednesday night after the Phillies and Braves take a day off. Halladay was 2-1 with a 6.06 ERA in spring training, and he walked nine and struck out 16 batters in 16.1 innings pitched. Halladay is 4-3 with a 4.21 ERA in 11 career games against the Braves, but is 1-2 in six career games in Turner Field, the sight of one of Doc's more frustrating performances last season. He will be opposed by Atlanta's Paul Maholm, who was 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA in the spring.

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