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Cautious Optimism

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Apr 4 2011 @ 8:57 pm In MLB,Philadelphia,Philadelphia Phillies | 1 Comment

Most Philadelphia fans fall into either of two camps regarding this weekend’s opening series.

One camp would cry “Wow, a sweep of Houston, we’re heading back to the World Series. Start counting down because our Magic Number is now just 159!

Another camp might simply point out “It was only the Houston Astros, get a grip!”

[1] [2]The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle. True, this was the first Phillies home opening three game sweep to begin a season in 112 years. Not since 1899 have the Phillies begun a season with a three game sweep of one opponent to begin a new season. The 1970 Phillies did start 3-0 with wins at home over Chicago Cubs (2 games) and Pittsburgh Pirates. Back in 1899, that team went on to a 94-58 record under manager Bill Shettsline but finished 3rd in National League, 9 games behind Brooklyn. The 1899 Phillies featured Nap Lajoie, future Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty (.410 BA with 137 [3]RBI) and three twenty game winners (Wiley Pratt 23-15, Red Donahue 21-8 and Chick Fraser 21-12). Their fourth starter that year was Al Orth who posted a 14-3 record. There are some similarities but a lot has changed in 112 years. Subway systems, the automobile, highways, public sewers and treated municipal water systems, Women’s Suffrage, the aeroplane, widespread use of electricity and television – just to name a few.

[4]The 2011 Home [5]Opener began with endless streams of players, coaches, batboys and a tedium of trainers being introduced and lined up on the baselines. Sure there were a lot of former Phillies amongst the Houston entourage but it wasn’t like they were astronauts returning from deep space assignments! Fans stood in the chilly, windy stadium to suffer through formal introductions for everyone from Jason Michael to Michael Bourn right on through to former GM Ed Wade and the members of his training staff. Oddly enough they left out Wade’s personal gardener, chauffeur and pool boy but damn if every bat boy, bullpen catcher and equipment manager wasn’t introduced. It’s good though because you really want to drag out an opening ceremony to deflate the sails of all the fun pomp and circumstance. Insanity!

[6]When it finally became time to play ball, Roy Halladay led his teammates to take the field. After that the crowd would be quiet while Halladay was doing a pretty good job with the Houston bats. Brett Myers was also keeping the Phillies bats pretty silent. By the 6th inning it was 4-0 and heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies were training 4-2. Halladay did not get the win but went 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 1 ER, 6 K on 101 pitches. JC Romero, David Herndon and Danys Baez would combine for 3 IP, 3 H and 3 ER. This game would come down to [7]Astros closer Brandon Lyon vs. the Phillies offense. 40 times in 2010 the Phillies came from behind and 8 times they sauntered out of the ballpark after walk-off hits. In 2011 it would come down to a parade of base hits, sparked by new #3 hitter Jimmy Rollins and followed in suit by Ryan Howard, Ben Francisco, Carlos Ruiz, Wilson Valdez and finally – John Mayberry, Jr who won the game with a pinch hit in the 9 spot. Phils win 5-4.

[8]Games Two and Three would not be as dramatic. Cliff Lee took the mound for Game 2 and scattered 4 hits over 7 innings, notching 11 strikeouts (0 BB) and permitting 3 ER on 111 pitches. Baez and Jose Contreras finished up but the Phils slugged 14 hits and amassed 9 runs to take the game 9-4. Roy Oswalt would face his former team in the series finale Sunday afternoon. Oswalt cruised to a 7-3 victory with 6 [9]IP (88 pitches), 5 hits, 1 BB and 6 strikeouts. The Phillies outscored the hapless Astros 21-11 (37-24 in hits) and obviously outpitched Houston despite noble efforts by Myers, Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris (JA Happ was pushed back in the rotation). The most astounding figure from the weekend was not the three record-setting sellouts in excess of 45,000 fans – rather it was that not one Phillies batter from Game 1 struck out. 17 over games two and three but none of the Phillies batters were retired on strikes in Game One. Perhaps the Game One drama wiped out the Astros hope or perhaps it was the fact that their alleged “closer” was lit up in the ninth by the Phillies hit parade. Game. Set. Match. Phillies.

LOOKING AHEAD

[10]The Phillies will spend the next 12 games facing foes from the National League East (or Feast if you prefer). Atlanta should be the Phillies only real threat come September but look for Florida and even Washington to be dangerous on any given day. Neither team has the depth nor stamina to maintain any prolonged winning over any length of time but they could prove problematic in a spoiler series. First up are the New York Mets who roll into town in disarray. They are bankrupt (borrowing money until Donald Trump decides whether or not the franchise is salvageable) and not the formidable [11]foes from 2007 and 2008. New York stands at 2-1 but they just watched Florida make a litany of fielding errors so they received 29 or 30 outs per game. That will not happen with the Phillies pitching and defense. Look for Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Roy Halladay to square off against Chris Young, Mike Pelfrey and Jonathon Niese. New York didn’t win their first road series in 2010 until June so at least that is behind them.

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