Braves Rally For Seven In The Eighth To Begin Defense Of Nl East Crown With 9-3 Win Over Phillies

Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall hits a two-run double off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Matt Strahm during the seventh inning of an opening-day baseball game, Friday, March 29, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall hits a two-run double off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Matt Strahm during the seventh inning of an opening-day baseball game, Friday, March 29, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The calendar still says March, so that's prime time for the Braves to beat up on the Phillies.

It's just the first game of a long season, of course. Atlanta still has six months to figure out how to best the Phillies in those final October games after losses the last two years have proved fatal to the Braves' World Series goals.

Matt Olson tied a career high with three doubles, including a bases-loaded drive in a seven-run eighth inning that rallied the NL East champion Braves past Philadelphia 9-3 in Friday's season opener.

Michael Harris II had three hits and snapped an eighth-inning tie with an RBI single off José Alvarado (0-1) that made it 3-2 and ignited a breakout inning. Alvarado allowed five runs and Connor Brogdon gave up two.

Pierce Johnson (1-0) tossed a scoreless seventh to earn the win for Atlanta in a game delayed a day by rain.

Braves manager Brian Snitker insisted his team was excited for any win — because it was needed, not necessarily because it was a potential table setter toward a third straight October showdown.

“You can't do that,” Snitker said. “I talked to the guys about that early on. It's easy to do, it's easy to say. But you've got to win today. If you want to fast forward, it doesn't work that way.”

Brandon Marsh hit a two-run homer for the Phillies.

The late collapse in the Phillies' 142nd opener wasted a strong outing for ace Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler struck out five and walked none over 89 pitches and six shutout innings in his first opening-day start. He took a no-decision when Adam Duvall ripped a two-RBI double to left off Matt Strahm in the seventh that tied the game 2-2.

“That goes to show we’re never out of it with our lineup," Duvall said. “We can come back with anybody.”

Braves ace Spencer Strider, a 20-game winner last season, tossed only five innings and surrendered Marsh's shot to left in the fifth. Strider pitched to derisive chants of “Stri-der! Stri-der!” from 44,452 full-throated Phillies fans already in postseason form.

The Phillies and Braves are entrenched in one of baseball's most intense rivalries the last few years. The Braves are the class of the division with six straight NL East titles and the 2021 World Series.

Philadelphia earned a wild-card berth out of the division the last two seasons -- and eliminated the Braves at Citizens Bank Park in each of the last two seasons in the NL Division Series.

The Phillies missed a World Series ring after losing to Houston in 2022 and blowing a 3-2 lead in a seven-game loss to Arizona in last season's NL Championship Series.

“Last couple of seasons, you get close. You can taste it, you can feel it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “They want it, they really do. It's not something we talk about every day. But it's part of the conversation certain days.”

Perhaps no player on Atlanta illustrated the tale of two seasons quite like Strider. In the regular season, Strider entered 8-0 with a 1.90 ERA against the Phillies. In the postseason, Strider has an 0-3 record with an ERA of 5.40 against Philadelphia.

In an odd sign of the times, the Phillies unveiled a powder blue 2023 flag ahead of the opener for winning a wild card spot. The Phillies had only raised two red flags for their 1980 and 2008 World Series titles; blue flags for NL pennants; and white for division crowns.

The Phillies flopped in the NLCS when Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos went 5 for 53 (.094) with 11 walks, 22 strikeouts and two RBIs in Philadelphia’s four NLCS losses. Continuing a troubling trend, the four sluggers went 1 for 15 with eight strikeouts against five Braves pitchers.

“No excuses,” Schwarber said. “It's still a fastball and you've got to hit.”


Braves C Sean Murphy left with left oblique tightness and was expected to go on the injured list.


The Braves send LHP Max Fried to the mound against Phillies RHP Aaron Nola. Nola had started the last six openers, the longest streak for a Phillies pitcher since Steve Carlton made 10 consecutive opening-day starts from 1977-86.