Welcome to BoxPlus, where I give you just a little more than the box score does.
For the first eight innings of the 2011 season the Phillies seemed a little dead offensively and rusty defensively.
Jimmy Rollins made me cringe in his first at-bat of the season when he swung at the first pitch and hit a weak ground out. Ryan Howard got the Phillies first hit of the season with a line drive to right-center in the second inning. Halladay looked good through his six innings with six strikeouts. He was forced to throw an extra 18-plus pitches (about an inning’s worth) due to an error and a bad play by Valdez; no runs were scored as a result of those errors. He did give up one manufactured earned run.
In the seventh, J.C. Romero failed in his designated role and allowed the sole left-handed batter he faced to single to left. David Herndon then allowed that runner and two more to score in that inning. The big hit was a Michael Bourne triple to center.
The home half of the seventh saw the Phillies get on the board with two runs. Placido Polanco led off the inning with a walk. Rollins saw some pitches and was able to single on a line drive to right. Still with no outs, a passed ball with Howard up moved both runners up and Howard hit a sacrifice fly to deep center, scoring Polanco and moving Rollins to third. Raul Ibanez then scored Rollins on a ground ball out to first.
Madsen had an uneventful eighth, posting two strike outs. Baez also did a nice job in the ninth, giving up only a two-out single and, following a steal, an intentional walk. He ended the inning when Angel Sanchez followed with a ground out.
The home half of the ninth is where all the magic happened.
Rollins led off the inning with the first of a string of good, patient at-bats that resulted in a ground ball that split the first and second basemen for a single. Ryan Howard exercised some patience and ran the count full before singling on a liner to center, moving Rollins to second. Raul Ibanez (0-4, 1 RBI off a sacrifice fly) popped up for what would be the only out of the frame. Rollins stole third with Francisco up and then Francisco sharply lined a single over the shortstops head, scoring Rollins and sending Howard to second.
Carlos Ruiz then stepped up and nearly ended the game on a deep line drive into the left field corner that just barely went foul. He would eventually single to left, loading the bases. Wilson Valdez, who was filling in for the injured Chase Utley, went 2-4, garnering his second hit in the ninth after Francisco. Valdez’s hit scored Howard to tie the game. Pinch-hitter John Mayberry stepped in and worked the count to 2-2 before hitting the game-winning single just over the center-fielder's outstretched glove. The outfield was playing shallow in an attempt to stop the winning run from scoring.
For the Phillies: The bench went 2-3 and drove in the game-winning run. The bullpen gave up three earned runs in three innings. The Phillies were 6-7 (all singles) in the ninth inning. Ben Francisco had the only Phillies error when he misjudged a fly ball. Rollins, Howard and Valdez all went 2-4; Valdez had the sole extra-base hit for the Phillies with a double off of Myers.
For the Astros: Brett Myers gave up 3 hits and 2 runs in seven strong innings. He had three walks and no strikeouts. He also had two hits at the plate. The Astros new closer has started the season with an 81.00 ERA.