Philadelphia Phillies: Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and the First Phillie of the Week

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Philadelphia Phillies: Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and the First Phillie of the Week
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The first three games of the season are now in the books, and the Phillies—thanks to three fine pitching performances, a terrific Opening Day comeback victory and other timely hitting this weekend—are 3-0 for the first time since Abe Lincoln manned the White House.

Okay, that was a slight exaggeration (Grant Administration?), but to Phillies Nation, the regular season could not have come soon enough or started much better.

What follows is the first of a (planned) weekly series wherein this columnist will feature his Phillie of the Week, evaluating games from the preceding Monday thru Sunday. In this case, there is only the three-game sweep of the Astros to evaluate, but there were still plenty of heroes to recognize.

Here are my Lucky Seven Phillies of the Week, with No. 1, of course, being the Phillie of the Week. Budgetary constraints make it impossible, for now, to make a contribution to a worthy cause in his name, although if any of you would like to do so in my stead, please contact me.

Placido Polanco (.417 BA) and Wilson Valdez (.364) just missed my Lucky Seven.

7) Roy Halladay  Doc took the ball and had his usual terrific command of those nasty pitches he throws. He pitched well enough to tally one in the win column, but his offense did not wake up until after he vacated the hill.

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Halladay fanned six, while yielding five hits, no walks and a single run in six innings. His ERA is a tiny 1.50.

6) Ben Francisco – The man who replaced Jayson Werth in rightfield and as the No. 5 hitter behind Ryan Howard, had a stellar week. His series was not perfect, as he misjudged a tricky fly ball in the opener for a two-base error.

But after that one miscue, he played a solid rightfield, including a catch up against the fence on Sunday that earned him a warm ovation. At the plate, Francisco is now batting .462 (six for 13) with a homer, four RBI and five runs scored. Jayson Who?

5) Jimmy Rollins – With his usual double play partner Chase Utley sidelined, Rollins started the year in the No. 3 hole, and had a terrific series. J-Roll hit a cool .500 (six for 12), scored four runs, and stole a base. The nifty shortstop also drew two walks on Sunday. That’s a great sign for Phils fans.

4) Roy Oswalt – Following Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and pitching in front of Cole Hamels, is not an easy task. Oswalt also had to do it against his former team. Not a problem, as Little Roy pitched six strong innings (yielding two earned runs on five hits, one walk and a hit batsman) in the 7-3 victory. Oswalt fanned six Astros.

3) John Mayberry, Jr. – Mayberry only had one hit this series (in three at-bats) but it was momentous. Mayberry lined a pinch-hit single to center off imploding reliever Brandon Lyon in the bottom of the ninth to cap a three-run rally. It was a walkoff RBI and the biggest hit of the young season.

2) Cliff Lee – The return of Cliff Lee before his once-and-present adoring fans in Game Two was an event every bit as memorable as Opening Day.

Mr. Lee did not disappoint whatsoever. He worked seven mostly dominating innings, giving up three runs on just four hits. Lee struck out 11 Astros without a walk, but did hit a batter on an offspeed pitch that grazed Chris Johnson’s foot.

Lee may have been awarded the No. 1 spot if it were not for that other Lee (Carlos) who belted a triple, a homer and all three runs batted in.

1) Ryan Howard – When you’re the biggest, most powerful hitter on a World Series favorite, one suspects that you are used to a disproportionate share of the spotlight and scrutiny. And with the departure of Werth and the injury to Utley, there has been even more attention paid to the Big Piece.

Howard has responded with a torrid start: Seven for 13 (.538 average) with three runs, a homer, a double and six RBI. Howard’s on-base percentage is a scintillating .500, and his slugging average stands at .846; his OPS is a gaudy 1.346.

Yes, it’s only been three games, but the three games have been quite remarkable.

GOLD NOTES

Roy Oswalt walked Michael Bourn with two outs in the top of the fifth. That stuff happens, and Oswalt, (only one walk against six strikeouts) exhibited impressive control.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Except when compared to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who did not issue any free passes. Collectively, the three starters fanned 23 and walked one in 19 innings. Your turn, Cole!

According to Todd Zolecki, of MLB.com, the Phillies opened the season with a three-game sweep at home for the first time since 1899. How is that possible? And yes, that was during the William McKinley Administration.

In case you were wondering, the Phils finished 94-59 that year, but they finished one game behind the Boston Beaneaters and eight back of the pennant-winning Brooklyn Superbas.

I will guarantee you that the Phils will not finish behind either of those juggernauts in 2011.

 

For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, as well as writing, speaking and interview requests, please e-mail: matt@tipofthegoldberg.com or contact him via his Bleacher Report homepage. 

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