For the second time in five days, the Phillies will celebrate an opening day. They’ve won three straight games, but the challenge should increase Monday night when the Mets and ace Jacob deGrom arrive in South Philly to begin their season.

The Mets spent five days in Washington without playing a game, as their season was delayed because of the Nationals’ COVID-19 outbreak. They were purchased this offseason by a billionaire owner and acquired superstar Francisco Lindor. The NL East is pegged to be baseball’s toughest division. The Phillies swept the reigning division champs. Now they match up against the most-talked-about team of the offseason. Happy opening day, again.

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— Matt Breen (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

Phillies turn to Matt Moore and Chase Anderson

Chase Anderson did not know where he would pitch this season when he entered last winter as a free agent for the first time in his career. The pitcher said he wanted to “exercise all the avenues” he had and one of those roads nearly took him to Japan.

Anderson eventually signed a major-league deal with the Phillies, but he first had discussions to sign with the same Japanese team for which Matt Moore pitched last summer. Moore’s name kept coming up in those talks, Anderson said, as the team waited to learn if the left-hander would return for a second season.

Anderson and Moore could have pitched together this season for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. Instead, they’re pitching for the Phillies.

“We both signed with the same team,” said Anderson, who joined the Phillies five days after Moore. “It’s pretty cool.”

The Phillies started their season withstellar performances from starters Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin. They combined to allow three runs in 20⅔ innings in a three-game sweep of the Braves. Joe Girardi said early in spring training that the team has three “No. 1” pitchers. And they backed him up in the opening series.

But it remains to be seen what the Phillies have at the back of their rotation.

Moore, once a top prospect who started his career with promise, seemed to right himself last summer in Japan. He made 15 starts, helped his team win the championship, and returned to the majors. Anderson pitched himself out of Toronto’s rotation last summer, but spiked his strikeout rate. The Phillies believe he’s more of the pitcher who had a 3.63 ERA from 2017 to 2019 than the one who had a 7.22 ERA over 10 games last season.

They both looked good in spring training, but the real test will come Monday and Tuesday when they start the first two games of the series against the Mets.

“You know what you’re going to get every night. We’re going to post every fifth day and do our work in between,” said Anderson, who will pitch Tuesday night. “Sometimes we don’t get the praise as the one, two, and three guys, but that’s OK. That’s kind of who I am. I grew up in a small town with a blue-collar mentality. I think staying in that lane is good for me.”

Moore enjoyed his time in Japan enough last summer that he considered staying for a second season. He was ultimately lured back to America. Anderson’s first foray into free agency did not require him to travel to Asia. Instead, he moved to Philly.

They became close this spring as two veterans trying to keep their careers churning at the back of the Phillies rotation. Anderson picked Moore’s brain about his curveball, and their wives became fast friends during spring training as both families have young children.

Perhaps those bonds could have been made on the Japanese island of Kyushu. Instead, they took place in Clearwater, Fla. as Moore and Anderson became teammates 7,700 miles from Japan.

“He has something to prove, like myself,” Anderson said.

The rundown

Girardi hasn’t outlined the playing time in center field, but Scott Lauber writes that it appears Adam Haseley will get the first opportunity to grab the job.

With an impressive season-opening performance, the Phillies show they can go toe-to-toe with the best team in the division, Lauber writes.

The Phillies’ pitching staff might be better than everyone thinks, Bob Brookover writes.

Major League Baseball needs to find a new site for the All-Star Game after removing it from Atlanta, but the Phillies won’t be hosting as they are content to wait until 2026.

Important dates

Tonight: Moore faces Jacob deGrom in the series opener vs. Mets, 7:05 p.m.

Tomorrow: Anderson starts against Marcus Stroman, 7:05 p.m.

Wednesday: Aaron Nola pitches the series finale vs. David Peterson, 4:05 p.m.

Thursday: The Phillies are off.

Friday: Phillies open three-game series in Atlanta, 7:20 p.m.

Stat of the day

The Phillies allowed just three runs in their three-game series against Atlanta, tied for the second-fewest runs allowed in the first three games of a season in franchise history. The 1970 Phillies also allowed three runs, as they started the season with three straight wins. The 1915 Phillies allowed just two runs in their first three games and started the season with eight straight wins.

So that means the 2021 Phillies will do one of two things: Finish in fifth place like the 1970 Phillies or win the pennant like the 1915 club. Those are the only outcomes that can happen when you start a season like this.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: Does the three-game sweep change your expectations about the Phillies? — Billy F. via email

Answer: Thanks, Billy. Not really. We knew the Phillies had the potential to be a playoff team, and three wins against the three-time division champs proved that. But it’s going to take more than that to prove that the Phillies can actually break through to the postseason.

The pitching — both the rotation and bullpen — was excellent this weekend, but the lineup scored just nine runs. If the Phillies can have their pitching and hitting click at the same time, they’ll be tough to keep out of the playoffs.