After the Nationals wind up their first visit to Philly, the Phillies fly to St. Louis to play the Cardinals in their home opener. Here witness more ceremony as the reigning National League Champions collect their 2004 hardware. Expect a dogfight as the Cards play hard for their adoring fans. See Scott Rolen at the hot corner and wonder how we ever let him go. Marvel at the Cardinal lineup. Hope to escape with at least one out of three.
Then it’s off to Florida to play the division rival Marlins, who have handled the Phillies like a dead goldfish for two straight years. Here the 2005 Phillies have a chance to win our hearts. No matter what happens before this series, if the Phillies beat the Marlins soundly, Philadelphia will rejoice. Lose to the Marlins and no matter what the team’s Win-Loss record, the fickle fans will turn. In April, the Phillies play the Marlins five times. How they play against the Marlins will define the Phillies as contenders or pretenders in 2005.
Their next opponent: the Atlanta Braves. Yes, those Atlanta Braves. The ones who have owned the NL East and snatched the Phillies lunch for 13 straight years. Frankly, we’re tired of it. It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to get our lunch back. As if the early five game showdown against the Marlins isn’t enough, the Phillies play the Braves six games in ten days, part of a difficult stretch playing in 13 consecutive days. See Johnny Estrada and marvel at the Braves pitching.
Sandwiched between the home-and-home series against the Braves are two with the Mets and two with Colorado, all without a day of rest. Travel will be brutal. Pitchers will be unavailable. This stretch is one of the reasons the Phillies decided to keep an extra pitcher rather than a position player when finalizing their opening day roster.
By the time the Phillies see the Nationals again in Washington on the 25th, the opening day ceremonies will seem like a distant memory, lost in the mists of time with the likes of “Goose” Goslin and Sam Rice.
April is a big month. Baseball is back and life begins anew.
But how will the Phillies greet May? Punch-drunk or hale n’ hearty? Will Kenny Lofton have a cheering section? K-Loft’s hayloft? Will the Wolf Pack double as Utley’s Mutts? Will Pat the Bat keep his Grapefruit swing? Will Byrd fly the coop or stay in triple-A? Will Placido Polanco keep placid while Bell plays third? Will Abreu finally start strong?
By May will we say that Floyd annoyed? That Rollins reached? Will the Phillies take hold of the NL East? Can they stay in the race until fall?