The Phillies have taken the ‘Opening Day Weekend’ term a little too literally the past three days, having Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and now Roy Oswalt take the mound to begin the season. That’s three starters 95% of the entire league would love to have on the mound for the first game of the season, not to mention Cole Hamels has yet to throw .
It was Oswalt, however, who had the honor of dishonoring his former team by throwing six strong innings to lead the Phils’ over the Astros to sweep the weekend series. Oswalt allowed two runs on five hits and one walk, including a solo homerun off the bat of right fielder Hunter Pence. He also struck out six.
The Phillies’ bats remained on fire, recording thirteen hits against Astros’ starter Bud Norris. Norris started in place of former Phillie J.A. Happ, who is currently on the Astro’s disabled list. For the Phillies, the scoring began early and often, with first baseman Ryan Howard launching the team’s first homerun of the season in the bottom of the first inning, a three-run shot to center field that landed in the Phillies’ bullpen. Two batters later, right fielder Ben Francisco hammered a solo shot to left field, which gave the Phils’ a 4-0 lead after one inning. Howard recorded his fourth RBI of the game in the bottom of the 3rd with a line drive double off of the right field wall. The ‘Big Piece’ went 7-13 over the weekend, with six RBIs and a homerun.
Shane Victorino returned to action to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth for Oswalt, and promptly drove in Francisco to give the Phils a 6-2 lead. Victorino did not start the game today due to an injured calf suffered in Saturday’s game in a collision with Francisco. It’s the second time Shane has been involved in a nasty encounter with a fellow outfielder, the first of which occured during spring training with left fielder Raul Ibanez. Rookie Michael Martinez, a Rule 5 draft pick, started in center for Victorino. Martinez recorded his first major league RBI in the bottom of the sixth, singling home Carlos Ruiz.
It is almost hard to imagine a better feeling as a Phillies fan to be able to watch three aces take the mound for the first three games of the season, with a fourth still to come for the first game of the Mets series on Tuesaday. It’s also comforting to watch an offense that seems to be above adequate to compensate for losing their third, Chase Utley, and fifth, Jayson Werth, batters in their lineup from last year. If Francisco can continue his conistent hitting and occasional power, and Wilson Valdez can hold down second base until Utley returns to the lineup, this team should be in more than good enough shape throughout the year.
Notes: Howard came a triple shy of completing the cycle, while both his homerun in the 1st and double in the 3rd innings came on 3-0 pitch counts; the Astros fell to 30-19 against the Phils’ since the 2004 season, while remaining the only National League club with a winning record against them during that time frame; Francisco made a catch in the top of the third inning while crashing into the wall and knocking a couple of scoreboard cards behind the right field fence.