By Sam Bush
If you closed your eyes on a sun-splashed day at Citizens Bank Park today, you could have sworn it was 2007.
Or any year until 2011, when the Phillies were in the middle of the greatest run they have ever had.
On the field and in the stands, when they sold out the Bank 257 straight games.
Just ask the 44,232 baseball fanatics who showed up to see the Phillies beat the A’s to start a season that seemed to be wasted during the labor negotiations.
Kyle Schwarber homered in his first at-bat with the Phillies, reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper knocked in a run and Aaron Nola struck out seven to lead the Phillies to a 9-5 win.
Fresh off the $79 million, four-year contract he signed last month, Schwarber crushed a 427-foot homer to right off A’s starter Frankie Montas (0-1) on just his seventh pitch of the game. Schwarber took an energetic run around the bases for his 14th career leadoff homer. The sellout crowd of 44,232 went wild and Schwarber thrust his helmet in the air for a rousing curtain call.
Schwarber’s one-out walk in the third inning ignited a four-run burst. Harper heard rousing “MVP! MVP!” chants that followed him from opening day introductions to his last at-bat. He showed why he earned that award last season with a hit to left that he stretched into a double. He was called out on the throw but stayed on second base as the play was reviewed. The crowd howled in delight with each replay on the big screen that showed Harper slid safely under the tag of second baseman Tony Kemp. The play was overturned and Harper scored on Hoskins’ two-RBI single. Didi Gregorius’ single up the middle made it 5-0.
The Phillies spent $179 million on Nick Castellanos and Schwarber after Harper pushed the front office to improve the team following an 82-80 finish last season. Schwarber, who added an RBI single in the eighth for a 9-5 lead, won a World Series with the Chicago Cubs and has played in the postseason in six of his seven seasons in the majors.
Nola, the 2018 All-Star who went 9-9 with a 4.63 ERA last season, made his fifth straight opening day start. Chad Pinder hit a solo homer in the fourth. Seth Brown’s three-run shot in the seventh chased Nola (1-0). The A’s made it 6-5 but Brad Hand struck out Jed Lowrie looking with runners on second and third to end the seventh.
Castellanos added an RBI double in the seventh for a 7-5 lead.