By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
For the first eight innings, the Phillies season opener against the Houston Astros resembled the last nine innings of their Game 6 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 National League Championship Series.
The Phillies got a strong effort from their ace Roy Halladay, who allowed just one run on five hits in six innings. The 2010 National League Cy Young Award winner had six strikeouts and zero walks. It took the sluggish Phils offense seven innings to push a couple of runs across the plate just to make the game competitive after Houston had taken a 4-0 lead in their half of the seventh inning.
In the ninth, the sleeping giant that is the Phillies offense finally awoke from its slumber with a three-run rally in the ninth to come away with a 5-4 victory over the Astros in front 45, 257 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“It took us a long to time to get something going,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “The game is momentum. We started hitting some balls hard and we started hitting some soft. It just started going in the right direction. That’s what it all boils down to. You stay with and you keep swinging something good might happen for you. We had a rough time getting going though.”
John Mayberry Jr.’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning capped off an improbable comeback in which the Phillies did not have an extra base hit. The Phillies scored all of their runs on RBI singles.
“That was just the desire to win,” said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. “No one wanted to make that last out. I think that everyone personally felt that Roy (Halladay) didn’t deserve a loss like that. We were doing our best to see that Brett Myers got the no-decision and by doing that Roy gets off the hook.”
Normally, your garden variety Phillies comeback usually comes from the Earl Weaver philosophy of good pitching and a three-run homer. In Friday’s game against Houston, the Phillies got half of that equation. In the ninth, the Phils came up with seven singles to drive in three runs off Houston closer Brandon Lyon. Rollins also stole third and put himself in position to score the first run of that inning.
“In spring training, we took a lot of pride in batting practice and we got drilled on that all the time,” Rollins said. “For about the first two and a half weeks, every second round was a situation. Runner on third with less than two outs, get him over. Drive him in when the runner is at second base. Mentally, you’re prepared for that.
“ Even though it’s batting practice, they want you to get it done in batting practice. You put pressure on yourself then to make sure you get the job done and so hopefully when it comes in a game, it happens.”
Today’s initial silence of the bats came courtesy of former Phillies starting pitcher Brett Myers, who allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits in seven innings on the mound. Myers didn’t necessarily look like the second coming of Nolan Ryan or Walter Johnson, but he did just enough to keep the vaunted Phillies offense from lighting up the scoreboard for most of the game.
“We were swinging a lot and really didn’t work him,” said Manuel. “(Myers) was moving the ball around and he did a good job.”
Houston scored the game’s first run in the sixth inning on a ground out by second baseman Bill Hall to second that scored Angel Sanchez. The inning started off with an infield hit by Sanchez and a double by rightfielder Hunter Pence. Carlos Lee popped out to second. After Hall grounded out to score Sanchez, third basemen Chris Johnson ended the inning with a flyout to right.
After Halladay’s departure, the Phillies bullpen couldn’t keep Houston from inflicting further damage. The Astros broke the game open in the top of seventh inning on a two-run triple off Phillies reliever David Herndon by centerfielder Michael Bourn, who later scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Sanchez.
The Phillies finally scored in their half of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Howard that scored Placido Polanco and an RBI ground out by Raul Ibanez that scored Rollins. That made the score 4-2.
In the ninth inning, Rollins and Howard started the inning with singles. Rollins then stoled third after Raul Ibanez popped out to second. Rollins stole third and then scored a single by Ben Francisco. A single by catcher Carlos Ruiz loaded the bases.
An RBI single by second baseman Wilson Valdez scored Howard from third to tie the game at 4-4 and set the stage for Mayberry’s game-winning base hit.
“I was looking for something to elevate and I can get up in the air to hit it,” Mayberry said. “To top it off with a game-winning was incredible.”