Royals hit town for Phillies’ odd home opener

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Last time Mike
Schmidt and George Brett were together in a ballpark in Philadelphia,
they were joined by 65,000 fans and riot police riding horses.

It was Game 6 of the 1980 World Series
at old Veterans Stadium. Tug McGraw pumped a fastball past Willie
Wilson, leaped off the mound and waited for Schmidt to run in from third
base to jump in his arms and kick off a wild celebration.

The Phillies beat the Royals to secure their first world championship in their 106th season. Brett watched from the dugout.

On Friday, the two Hall of Famers will
throw out the first pitch when the Phillies open their home schedule
against Kansas City in a rare interleague matchup in April.

“Playing your home opener against an AL team is weird,” Schmidt said in spring training. “Where’s the charm in that?”

It happened already in Cincinnati
where the Reds began the season against the Los Angeles Angels. The
Houston Astros’ shift from the NL to the AL left 15 teams in each
league, meaning there’s an interleague game every night.

That’s strange for fans, and unusual to players.

AL pitchers now have to be ready to
swing bats earlier than usual if their team plays in an NL park where
there’s no designated hitter.

“It’s going to be cold, it’s probably
going to rain and I’ll probably be in the back corner of the box, trying
to work a five-pitch at-bat without swinging,” said Wade Davis, who
starts for the Royals on Friday afternoon. “Hopefully, avoid swinging at
all.”

James Shields will go against Cole Hamels on Sunday. At least Shields got a hit off him seven years ago.

“We’re prepared,” he said. “We prepared ourselves in spring training to be able to do this.”

The Royals and Phillies have played
just six regular-season games against each other and six more in the
postseason. The Royals last visited Citizens Bank Park in 2004.

“We ran our spring training like a
National League spring training with our pitchers hitting every single
day so they’re ready to go,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It breaks up
the monotony a little bit. It’s something different for them. It will
be interesting.”

Both teams lost their first two games
to start the season. The Royals beat the Chicago White Sox on Thursday
afternoon, hopped a plane and will arrive in Philadelphia before the
Phillies, who played at Atlanta.

If the Royals want to know what to
expect from the rabid fans in Philadelphia, they can ask teammate Jeff
Francoeur. The right fielder played a couple season openers against the
Phillies when he was with the Braves.

“I think it’s intriguing,” he said.
“I remember when I looked at our schedule thinking `We’re going to
Philly the second series of the year?’ but I think it’s going to be
pretty cool and it will be a good experience. I know how crazy it can be
there. It’s always fun. I enjoyed that.”

Kyle Kendrick takes the mound for the
Phillies in the series opener. John Lannan makes his Phillies debut on
Saturday. Kendrick enters the season with a spot in the rotation for the
first time since 2010. The right-hander was 11-12 with a 3.90 ERA last
year in 37 games, including 25 starts. Kendrick has shuttled between the
bullpen and the rotation the last two seasons.

The Phillies will be seeking their
first series win when they face the Royals. The season got off to a poor
start with Hamels and Roy Halladay getting roughed up by the Braves in
consecutive games.

“I feel strongly about our team. I
like our team,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We should be there all
year long, really. When we go on the skids, we’ll come out of it. We’re
going to win our share.”