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Phillies notes: Wheeler’s strong start, Realmuto’s pop quiz, more from Opening Day

Phillies notes: Wheeler's strong start, Realmuto's pop quiz, more from Opening Day

Phillies notes: Wheeler’s strong start, Realmuto’s pop quiz, more from Opening Day originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The South Philadelphia air was thick with anticipation when the Citizens Bank Park gates opened early Friday afternoon for the Phillies once-delayed Opening Day against the defending division champion Braves. Somewhere Harry Kalas was humming the opening bars of “High Hopes.” That positive energy was presaged in Rob Thomson’s late morning pregame media scrum in the dugout.

“So this is the year, right?” was the first question – or maybe it was a comment – lobbed at the Phillies manager. Thomson grinned. “Well, that’s the plan,” the Phillies manager replied with a grin. “That’s the plan every year.”

Funny thing about that. To the left of the home clubhouse door, the exit which leads to the dugout tunnel, is a picture of boxer Mike Tyson along with his famous quote, “Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the face.”

Fortunately for the Phillies, there’s no such thing as a knockout punch in Game 1.

Yeah, they got their noses bloodied by an unsightly bullpen implosion. That’s all. The 9-3 loss to the Braves will be picked apart and overanalyzed simply because it’s the first game. In the big picture, it means no more than a 10-0 win would have.

Remember, Atlanta’s Magic Number to force the Phillies to enter the playoffs through the wild card door is still 161.

Swing, batter batter: Speaking of the wild card, there was a lot of talk throughout spring training about avoiding having losing records into June and then being forced to come on strong just to qualify or the postseason as they did in 2022 and 2023.

This year, the stated goal was to get off to a fast start on the way to halting the Braves streak of NL East titles at six. Thomson repeated pregame that the biggest change he made in Clearwater was trying to make sure all his regulars got plenty of Grapefruit League at bats. That was difficult last year, he noted, because so many of his starters – Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, Trea Turner – participated in the World Baseball Classic and got to camp late.

Proving once again that baseball is a game that can’t always be explained, the only big knock the Phillies got before pushing cross a cosmetic run in the bottom of the ninth Friday was a 2-run homer by leftfielder Brandon Marsh off Braves starter Spencer Strider in the fifth.

Marsh was limited to just 18 at bats in Florida after…

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