Philadelphia Phillies Prove They'll Need More Than Just Starting Pitching
The Phillies opened the 2011 season Friday with a dramatic come-from-behind win against the Houston Astros, thanks to a walk-off single by pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr.
The Phillies' offense in the first eight innings was eerily reminiscent to the stagnant offensive output in 2010, but in the bottom of the ninth, the Phightin' Phils were reborn. The Phillies can only hope that this comeback, fueled by small ball, will ignite the their bats for the games to come.
After an offseason of uncertainty, injury and speculation, what can we take from Opening Day?
The Phillies Will Need at Least 4 Runs Every Game
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Like I said in the title, the Phillies, despite having one of the greatest rotations ever, will not be able to rely on Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to pitch complete game shutouts every game.
Roy Halladay, who pitched four complete game shutouts in 2010, was on pace to do just that going into the third inning. He tantalized the crowd with grandiose thoughts of an Opening Day perfect game, mowing down the first eight batters. Then, Houston RHP Brett Myers stepped to the plate and hit a single up the middle. (Myers later got another hit, but Phillies fans shouldn’t have been surprised at his batting performance. Remember the 2008 playoffs against CC Sabathia?) Halladay’s pitch count rose to 101 pitches when the sixth inning was protracted by a misplay by Wilson Valdez. Halladay left after six, striking out six, walking none and giving up five hits and one run.
Charlie Manuel sent in J.C. Romero to get the first batter in the seventh, but instead, Romero gave up a single. David Herndon came in to replace Romero, but he didn’t fare any better. He gave up another single, followed by a triple by speedster Michael Bourn. A sacrifice fly by Angel Sanchez brought Bourn home and gave the Astros a 4-1 lead.
The middle relief proved that it is the weakest link for the Phillies. They will need to have enough offense each game to make up for any runs the bullpen will allow.
Carlos Ruiz Is Still "Cloooootch"
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Carlos Ruiz continued to show that he is effective under pressure, or maybe that he only works under pressure.
Senor Octubre's only hit of the day came in the ninth inning with two runners on base. After hitting a line drive to left barely foul, Ruiz hit a single in between third and short to load the bases and set the stage for a dramatic comeback.
Jimmy Rollins Batting 3rd in the Lineup Works
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Jimmy Rollins batted 2-for-4, including a single to lead off the ninth inning.
Ryan Howard followed with a single. Rollins then showed he still has wheels and stole third, allowing him to score easily on Ben Francisco's single.
A Solid Bench and Playing Small Ball Will Fuel the Team's Success
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Did you notice how confident John Mayberry Jr. looked while pinch-hitting in the ninth? This guy came to play. After the game he said he had been intently watching every pitch by Astros' closer Brandon Lyon so that he'd be ready to hit if needed. He then placed the game-winning line drive perfectly over Michael Bourn's head (he may need to give the kid at the beginning of the clip some credit for the good luck).
Also coming off the bench, Ross Gload had a nice pinch-hit single.
The Phillies playing "small ball" in the ninth is what won the game. Fundamental baseball may be a better way to describe it, but in a game where the wind was keeping the ball in the park, the Phillies got it done with single after single, six total in the ninth inning.
Rollins had a key steal, which could have caused more damage when the Astros' catcher made an errant throw to third. Howard probably should have gone to second on the play, but the Phillies still got the job done.
Ryan Madson Belongs as the Setup Man
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No question, Ryan Madson needs to continue pitching in the eighth inning. Charlie Manuel made the right decision by labeling Jose Contreras as the closer to replace Brad Lidge.
Madson dazzled in the eighth inning. He forced Carlos Lee to ground out and then struck out the next two batters.
Danys Baez came in to pitch the ninth and allowed one hit and an intentional walk.
Ben Francisco's Glove and Raul Ibanez's Bat: Cause for Concern?
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Ben Francisco atoned for missing a line drive in the sixth inning with an RBI single in the ninth, but his range in the outfield has me somewhat concerned.
Raul Ibanez went 0-for-4 today (with an RBI sac fly) batting behind Ryan Howard. The Phillies need Ibanez to backup their cleanup hitter or else Howard will never get any pitches to hit.