It's finally here. The 2017 starts with the Phillies in Cincinnati, the birthplace of professional baseball.
For the second time, Jeremy Hellickson gets the nod as Opening Day starter. The Phillies enter the season with a ton of question marks and some interesting plotlines.
The first quarter of this year's schedule is going to be brutal. This is one chance to start out on the right foot.
GamesMonday, April 3, 4:05 p.m.: Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 0) vs.Scott Feldman (0-0, 0.00)
Wednesday, April 5, 7:10 p.m.: Jerad Eickhoff (0-0, 0) vs. Brandon Finnegan (0-0, 0.00)
Thursday, April 6, 12:35 p.m.: Clay Buchholz (0-0, 0.00) vs. Rookie Davis (0-0, 0.00)
2016 and 2017 seriesThe Phillies went 2-4 against the Reds in 2016, which is somewhat surprising when you consider the Reds finished with three fewer wins than the Phillies last year. FiveThirtyEight has the Reds and Phillies expected to win 71 and 70 games this year. The Phillies and Reds will meet again on May 26-28 in Philly.
What to know about the RedsCincinnati doesn't have a lot to be excited about. Joey Votto is still amazing. Billy Hamilton is fun to watch. Brandon Finnegan has great stuff. After that, it's basically Scott Feldman, Zach Cosart and Drew Storen.
What to look forYou always want to win on Opening Day. Other than that, it would be nice to see the Phillies jump out of the gate fairly strongly because it's going to be a brutal month.
The next 12 straight games are against the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.
In fact, of the Phillies first 42 games, they play legitimate World Series contenders a vast majority of the time.
The Phillies play the reigning champ Chicago Cubs four times. They play the Nationals 12 times. They play the Los Angeles Dodgers three times. Oh, and they play the New York Mets six times. As if it wasn't brutal enough, this part of the schedule also includes three games against the Texas Rangers.
That's 27 of 42 games coming against the big boys. One of their easier matchups is two home games against the Seattle Mariners and three games against the Pirates, who are also considered favorites to reach the playoffs.
Thank God for the Cincinnati series and three games each against the Marlins and Braves.
That first stretch could be brutal for the team's outlook. It's not hard imagining them coming out of those 42 games with a 10-32 mark. Considering 25 of those 42 games are on the road, it wouldn't be a disaster to start the season 16-26, even though that would look like a disaster in the standings. However, if the Phillies start out somewhat hot, winning say 19 of those 43 games, the rest of the season starts to look more interesting.