By Sam Bush
Phil Gosselin homered twice, Didi Gregorius banged his second and Zack Wheeler won his Phillies debut, 7-1 over the Miami Marlins.
J.T. Realmuto added a three-run homer for Philly.
Gosselin connected off Alex Vesia in the sixth inning to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead and send manager Joe Girardi on his way to his first win with the team. Gosselin homered again in the eighth for his first career multi-homer game and a 7-1 lead.
Wheeler (1-0) tossed five-hit ball and struck out four over seven innings after signing a $118 million, five-year deal in free agency. The 30-year-old Wheeler, who spent his first seven seasons with the New York Mets, pitched only days after his wife gave birth to their son. His wife, Dominique, had a due date of Saturday – but Wesley Wheeler was born last Monday.
Wheeler threw only 36 pitches over the first three innings and got Miami to hit into four inning-ending double plays through the first six. His only rough patch came in the fifth, when he allowed a walk and a single before Miguel Rojas tied the game 1-all on an RBI single.
The Marlins’ rally sparked Little League sounds out of the dugout. The calls of ”Swing batter, batter!” were heard up near the cheap seats without fans in the ballpark to drown them out.
”This is not what you dream of being in the big leagues, in a game with nobody in the stands,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. ”That’s what you’re doing in the Instructional League.”
Just a handful of Phillies fans pressed against a gate nearly 440-feet away near an outfield entrance and screamed, screamed, screamed for the home team. With Bryce Harper up and the bases loaded in the second inning, a lone ”Let’s go, Phillies!” yell was heard. The call of encouragement hardly helped – Harper struck out swinging to end the inning.
Harper again jogged out to right field to open the game and bowed toward the empty sections where fans usually return the gesture and go wild for the popular Phillies slugger.
”I want to keep doing it,” Harper said before the game. ”I think it’s something that is really cool to be able to do that. I thought if I could find a camera, then it’s kind of like me doing it to the fans at home. I thought that was pretty cool. We’ll do that every day. I’ll find the camera every day and do that. It’s kind of like nothing’s changed and I’m still doing the same things I’m doing. I’m just trying to keep it as normal as possible.”
One fan who rooted for a ho-ho-homer? Yes, that was the Phillie Phanatic dressed as Santa Claus to add to the opening weekend festivities.
Gregorius hit his second homer in two days when he gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead on a solo shot to right in the second off Caleb Smith, who lasted just three innings.