A top-tier pitching matchup headlines the season opener between the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers on Thursday in Arlington, Texas.
The Phillies will turn to right-hander Aaron Nola, while the rebuilding Rangers will start their new ace, right-hander Jacob deGrom, who signed a five-year, $185 million contract during the offseason.
Nola, who went 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA over 32 starts last season, is making his sixth straight Opening Day start for the defending National League champion Phillies. His six straight Opening Day starts rank third in team history, behind Hall of Famers Robin Roberts (12 in 1950-61) and Steve Carlton (10 in 1977-1986).
This is a huge season for Nola, who turns 30 in June. He’s entering the final year of a five-year, $56.75 million deal and could be among the sport’s most coveted free agents at season’s end. Nola and the Phillies recently halted talks regarding a contract extension, with the sides agreeing to resume them next offseason.
“Sometimes it comes to that; we’ll talk at the end of the season,” Nola said. “I’m focused on this year. We want to win, so we’re just so focused on having a good season and having fun with these guys.
“We definitely tried to get it done, but it just didn’t work out right now. Doesn’t mean it’s over, by any means. We’ll talk at the end of the season and see what happens.”
deGrom, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, is making his fourth Opening Day start, but his first with the Rangers, who have had 14 different Opening Day starters since 2010.
“You want to set the tone for the season and get things going,” deGrom said. “It does feel different even though you try not to make it feel different. You want to go out there, like I said, set the tone and have success.”
deGrom, a four-time All-Star who turns 35 in June, went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in just 11 starts last year with the Mets. His last two seasons have been derailed by injuries; he has made just 26 starts. He also already has dealt with an injury this spring, as tightness in his left side limited him during camp.
When deGrom has been healthy, he has been dominant. He posted a 1.94 ERA with an average of 12 strikeouts per nine innings from 2018 to 2021.
In his final spring start Saturday against the San Diego Padres, deGrom pitched 3 2/3 shutout innings, allowing two hits to go along with six strikeouts and two walks.
deGrom is 9-1 with a 2.18 ERA, 136 strikeouts and 27 walks in 20 appearances against the Phillies. Nola has never faced the Rangers, who beat the Phillies in all four meetings last year, outscoring them 19-7.
The Rangers went 68-94 and finished fourth in the American League West, well behind World Series champion Houston, which cruised to its fifth division title in six years by going 106-56.
The Phillies finished third in the National League East with a mark of 87-75 — their most victories since recording 102 in 2011. They earned the final wild-card spot in the National League playoffs and made their first World Series appearance since 2009, falling to the Astros in six games.
–Field Level Media