Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Aaron Nola's 1st start; hittable opposing pitcher

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Aaron Nola's 1st start; hittable opposing pitcher

Phillies (1-3) vs. Nationals (3-1)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies lost their home opener to the Nationals but impressed their manager in doing it, coming back from a 7-0 deficit and getting the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss.

The series continues Saturday night in Aaron Nola's much-anticipated season debut:

1. All eyes on Nola
In reality, all eyes will be on Nola 32 times this season or however many times he takes the mound. He's coming off an elbow injury that cost him the second half of his season, and before that injury, he had the worst stretch of his baseball life.

On June 5 last season, Nola fired six shutout innings with nine strikeouts against the Brewers to lower his ERA to 2.65 through 12 starts. What happened from there was ugly. Nola gave up 39 runs (36 earned) over 33 innings in his next eight starts as his ERA soared to 4.78. His opponents hit .367 with 14 walks.

Where was the guy with the pinpoint command?

Nola had a rough spring, but Pete Mackanin liked the velocity he saw from his 23-year-old right-hander. 

It's not velocity that made Nola a first-round pick in 2014, though. It was elite command, an ability to spot his fastball wherever he wanted, and a slurvy curveball that can completely freeze hitters.

The Nationals are not an easy first test. Bryce Harper is 7 for 11 off Nola with two homers. Daniel Murphy has a double, triple and a homer in 13 at-bats. Jayson Werth has taken him deep twice.

Nola has faced Washington six times and gone 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA. He doesn't need to go out there tonight and fire seven shutout innings, but the Phillies will want to see him enter and exit the game healthy, keep the ball low and work quickly. This early in the season, it's more about positive signs from Nola than just results.

2. Wake-up calls
Tommy Joseph needs one. So does Maikel Franco, Michael Saunders and Cameron Rupp.

Joseph is 0 for 13 with six strikeouts. Franco is 2 for 16 and has left a whole lot of men on base. Saunders is 1 for 10 and has made a few crucial outs. Rupp is 2 for 11 with five K's.

The Phillies obviously are not going to win many games with half of the lineup doing nothing. It is reminiscent of last season when the Phillies would have so many guys going cold at the same time. That's how you score 39 fewer runs than any other team.

3. Herrera's hitting, though
One guy that you can't complain about so far is Odubel Herrera. Four games into the season, he's gone 6 for 14 with two doubles and four walks.

Herrera had two more hits Friday off Max Scherzer, the reigning Cy Young winner who Herrera continues to have success against (see story).

Herrera and Howie Kendrick have been the Phillies' most consistent hitters less than a week into the season. Freddy Galvis and Aaron Altherr have also shown some pop.

4. Guthrie gets the start
There was some thought the Phillies would face talented young right-hander Joe Ross this weekend, but instead, they'll see veteran Jeremy Guthrie on Saturday and Stephen Strasburg on Sunday.

The Nationals selected Guthrie's contract after Friday's game. 

It's a pretty big surprise to see the 38-year-old starting during a team's first cycle through the rotation. He had a 5.95 ERA for the Royals in 2015 and didn't pitch in the majors last season, posting a 7.17 ERA at Triple A.

He's, at times in his career, been a serviceable fourth starter who limits walks. 

When Guthrie last pitched in the majors, he used a five-pitch mix: four-seam fastball around 92-93 mph, a sinker, changeup, curveball and cutter.

Put it this way: Having faced Scherzer on Friday and with Strasburg on tap Sunday, this is the game the Phillies' bats need to wake up. There won't be much of an excuse if they're silent against Guthrie and a Nationals bullpen they exposed Friday.

5. This and that
* Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris are going to get so many outs this season. Let's just hope they're meaningful outs. Both impressed Friday with the Phillies trailing by multiple runs. The back-end of this bullpen is the team's strength; hopefully, they get to use it.

* Credit to Jeanmar Gomez for easily working his way through Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman in an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth inning Friday.

* Harper loves himself some Citizens Bank Park. In 36 career games here, he's hit .306 with 12 homers, 26 RBIs and an OPS well over 1.000.

* As if that's not enough, Harper is protected by Daniel Murphy, a .313 lifetime hitter against the Phillies in 510 plate appearances. 

(How awesome is it that the Mets just gave away Murphy and Justin Turner, who have become two of the most consistent doubles hitters in the NL?)

Rob's Rants: Rhys Hoskins, Vinny Curry, solar eclipse and more

Rob's Rants: Rhys Hoskins, Vinny Curry, solar eclipse and more

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which CSNPhilly's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Why wait?
“It’s about damn time.” — LeBron James

Watching Rhys Hoskins hit five home runs in seven games on the Phillies’ recent West Coast trip left me torn. 

On one hand, it’s clear he has a very bright future. His power stroke’s looked every bit as good as it did the last two years in the minors, where he hit a combined 67 long balls. Not to mention, he’s also carried over his excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio in his short sampling of major-league pitching.

However, I’m also left asking the question of what took so long? Not only why it took until Aug. 10 for him to reach the big leagues, but also why wasn’t he used in left until his last week with the IronPigs? He’s a 24-year-old college player who had accomplished all he could in the minors. He should have been a Phillie sooner.

Tommy Joseph is in the midst of a freefall. Even before his slump, his numbers were just decent. Far from special. 

Hoskins’ promotion was abetted by Aaron Altherr’s injury. Still, prior to Altherr missing time, you could have gotten Hoskins enough starts between first and the outfield to make it worth having him up in the big leagues. 

Also, now that J.P. Crawford is playing some third at Lehigh Valley, it makes you wonder why he, Hoskins and Scott Kingery for that matter, didn’t get work at other positions much sooner.

Curry up, Vinny
Vinny Curry’s 2017 preseason thus far has mirrored his 2016 regular season. In other words, he’s been a ghost.  

Zero tackles, zero sacks, zero impact. 

The 29-year-old signed a five-year, $47 million deal, $23 million of which was guaranteed prior to the 2016 season. 

Curry had just 2½ sacks and 26 tackles last year. The previous season, he had 3½ sacks and 12 tackles. He played in all 32 games those seasons. 

Curry’s deal could go down as one of the worst — if not the worst — in team history. 

The excuse last year was he played hurt. In 2015, he was playing in a 3-4 scheme that did not fit his skill set as a rushing end. Interestingly, Curry played in the same Billy Davis-led defense in 2014 and totaled nine sacks.

Connor Barwin is now gone. Derek Barnett is a 21-year-old rookie. The job is Curry’s to lose and he’s doing his best to do so. 

Money should not be a factor in terms of playing time. Rookie or not, Barnett has far outplayed Curry and it should reflect in snaps if the veteran does not get his act together in the final two preseason games.         

In totality
If I never hear the word “totality” again, I will depart this Earth a happy man. 

If you watched or listened to any of the coverage leading up to Monday’s solar eclipse, you heard the word, ad nauseam. 

I’m guilty of existing too much in my own sports bubble and not appreciating things outside of those boundaries. So while it didn’t do much for me, I understand and appreciate the solar eclipse was a once-in-a-lifetime or every-38-year thing.

However, an anchor on The Weather Channel took things to a different orbit when she was brought to tears discussing the eclipse. I wish I could have concealed my eyes and ears the way the moon obscured the sun at 2:44 p.m. when she began to get misty.     

G-O-A-T
Jack Regenye’s catch in the championship game of the Junior League World Series (ages 13-15) may be the greatest catch ever. Regenye, the centerfielder for the Kennett-Unionville squad, pulled off the rare combo of fearlessness, athleticism and timing in spectacular fashion. 

The fact that Kennett lost, 12-1, to Chinese Taipei will go down as simply a footnote. Regenye should never pay for a soda or chicken fingers again in the Kennett-Unionville area.   

Best of MLB: Indians get walk-off win over Red Sox on error

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Best of MLB: Indians get walk-off win over Red Sox on error

CLEVELAND -- Brandon Guyer scored when first baseman Brock Holt threw away Roberto Perez's bunt in the 10th inning, lifting the Cleveland Indians over the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Monday night in a matchup of first-place teams.

After Guyer's leadoff double against Brandon Workman (0-1), Holt fielded the bunted ball and tried to throw out Guyer at third. Guyer slid into the bag as the throw skipped past third baseman Rafael Devers, then got to his feet and raced across home plate. Teammates ran onto the field and doused Perez with water and white powder.

Perez also had a three-run homer in the second inning.

Cody Allen (1-6) allowed Christian Vazquez's leadoff single in the 10th, but retired the next three hitters. The inning ended when shortstop Francisco Lindor ran down Mookie Betts' popup in center field with his back to home plate.

Cleveland relief ace Andrew Miller left in the seventh inning after aggravating the patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Miller recently returned after over two weeks on the disabled list with the knee injury (see full recap).  

Albers gives Mariners win over former team
ATLANTA -- Andrew Albers worked into the sixth inning for his second straight win since coming up from the minors, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 6-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.

Albers (2-0) also had the first hit and RBI of his career -- in his first big league at-bat.

The 31-year-old left-hander beat his former organization, having spent most of the season at the Braves' Triple-A club. He went 12-3 but never got a call to the big leagues.

Instead, Albers was dealt to the Mariners for cash on Aug. 11. He was called up by Seattle to make a start four days later, working six strong innings in a 3-1 win over Baltimore.

Now, after going just over four years between major league victories, Albers has two wins in less than a week.

Mike Foltynewicz (10-9) has lost four of his last five starts for Atlanta (see full recap).

Pollock’s 2-run blast lifts D-backs over Mets
NEW YORK -- A.J. Pollock hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning and the Arizona Diamondbacks snapped a three-game skid with a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets on Monday night.

J.D. Martinez had an RBI single and left fielder David Peralta threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate for the Diamondbacks, who began the day with a 2 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee for the second NL wild card. They are 4-0 against the Mets this season and have won nine of 10 meetings over the last two years.

Pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco walked to start the 10th. One out later, Pollock sent a 94 mph fastball from Eric Goeddel (0-1) over the center-field fence to put the Diamondbacks back in front after they squandered a 1-0 lead in the seventh.

Fernando Rodney gave up a leadoff homer to Michael Conforto before getting three outs for his 28th save in 33 tries.

Jimmie Sherfy (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for his first major league win (see full recap)