I think the only thing that gets me through the end of winter is counting down the days till spring training, till baseball is back. If only we can catch a glimpse, a taste of baseball. The long, overdue wait to start another year phinally over. As the days of camp grow monotonous you can’t help but long for Opening Day! A day like no other in sports, in a league of its own. After months, weeks, and days of waiting that day came and went, and oh what a weekend it was! The Phillies exceeded every phans expectations from walk-off heroics to a hero’s triumphant return. This weekend in Phillies baseball only serves as an appetizer of the filet and lobster that is to come.
Mayberry Jr. walks-off with the win
Opening day started off with our Ace of all Aces Roy Halladay on the hill. It was cold, windy, and rainy but the anticipation of 2011 packed enough energy to keep all of South Philly warm. The Opening Day festivities filled with fireworks, a fly over, and the biggest American flag ever started off as cold as the April air.
Doc pitched strong through the first three innings, although lacking his best stuff he still finished a solid six innings with only 5 hits and 1 earned run while striking out six. It was the absence of the bats that seemed to be the story line early on. Ex-Phillie Brett Myers had an easy time quieting the bats. With the Phillies down 4-2 in the 9th it looked as if Opening Day would end on a sour note.
With only 4 hits going into the 9th J-Roll led off the inning with a single, maybe there was hope in the air. With the 5th consecutive single for the Phillies Wilson Valdez had somehow tied the game up pumping his fists all the way to first. This put the game and Opening Day in the hands of John Mayberry Jr., making his first ever Opening Day appearance in the Majors.
Mayberry stepped to the plate and delivered with a shot over the head of center fielder Michael Bourn. Just like that, with six straight singles, after a game of silent bats, the Phillies win the Opener in walk-off fashion 5-4! Oh happy Halla-day!
Lee returns in dominating fashion
It’s hard to imagine topping an Opening day like the one on Friday night but with the return of Clifton Phifer Lee on Saturday night it was sure to be something special. Every butt in the seat had been waiting for this moment since December. As Lee made his walk from the bullpen warm-ups to the dugout every phan in the building stood to their feet. The poor girl lucky enough to introduce the Phillies lineup was drown out by the incredible roar of the Philly phaithful as #33 was set to be announced.
It was truly an unbe-LEE-vable (has this been overused yet!?) experience to witness the return of Cliff Lee. It was a long awaited love phest for Lee and the city of Philadelphia. The man who had stolen our hearts in ’09 only to have Ruben Amaro break them, took less money to come back and in the same breath spit in the Yankees face. If you thought Cliff Lee was of legend status pre-trade well Saturday night reiterated the sentiment this city has for its beloved son.
Oh yea, he did pitch too. Over 7 innings Lee struck out 11 with no walks. His lone mistake was the fastball to Carlos Lee that the other Lee sent over the wall for two of the Astros three runs.
Skipper Charlie Manuel seemed to like what he saw out of his second Ace. “We’ll keep him for a few years,” Manuel said post-game.
Lee’s every move was applauded; he even got a standing ovation for striking out. He was applauded for hustling out a ground ball in the fifth that to all in attendance he definitely beat. Lee can do no wrong. It was a night that just seemed to be so perfect. A fitting beginning to a story that can only end one way.
The Big Man off to a hot start
The hitting seemed to take off from the previous day’s 9th inning magic. Every starter except Lee had a hit, with Polly, Ibanez, Jimmy, and Howard all registering multiple hits. The Phils got to Wandy Rodriguez early scoring two in the first and two more in the fourth, adding three runs in the fifth to make it 7-3. Francisco, Ibanez and Victorino each had two RBIs. The 9-4 final proved that this offense is very capable of scoring runs and that Cliff Lee is still the dominating picture we had in ’09. I’m just so glad he’s back!
I almost felt bad for the Houston Astros on Sunday afternoon. First Halladay, then Lee, now your former Ace Roy Oswalt! To make matters worse the ‘Stros had to send Bud Norris to the hill in place of injured J.A. Happ. The batting practiced seemed to linger past the 1:35 start time as the Phightins teed off on Norris.
It didn’t take long to get on the board as the Big Man Ryan Howard delivered with a three-run bomb to center field. One batter later Ben Francisco added to the total with a solo shot of his own. In the third with runners on the corners Howard came through again with a double to make it 5-0. Two more runs in the sixth gave the Phillies seven runs for the day in a 7-3 final to complete the sweep of the Houston Astros. Sunday proved to be another offensive explosion and a beautiful night cap to Opening Weekend.
The Phillies hit .349 with a .407 on-base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage this weekend. They scored 21 runs. If this weekend is any indication I think the offense is just fine. Howard, looking in mid-season form, and Francisco seem to be in an early groove and Jimmy Rollins is fitting in perfectly in the number three hole. Valdez has again proven to be fully capable of filling in for the injured Chase Utley.
The three Aces combined threw 19 innings, allowing 14 hits, six runs, one walk and striking out 23. It is the first time the Phillies have opened the season at home 3-0 since 1970 and the first time the Phillies have opened the season at home with a three-game series sweep since 1889!! Wow.
I don’t know if I could have dreamed up a better Opening Weekend. Baseball is back and Phillies phever is at an all-time high. Just think 159 more games of everything that is Phillies baseball. There is no better time to be a Phillies phan then right now. Soak it up, enjoy every moment. This is the stuff you will be telling your grandkids about.