For seven innings at the beginning of their season-opening series, the Phillies played right into the hands of their detractors, seemingly unable to back up the efforts of the heroic pitching staff assembled to make their run for a fifth consecutive NL East title. They were over-eager to prove those detractors wrong with their bats, swinging freely without converting runs and committing errors in the field at the worst positions (Ben Francisco in right and Wilson Valdez at second).
On an Opening Day when the bright colors of pomp and circumstance were trying their hardest to shine through, the play on the Phils’ home field was mimicking the weather that nearly derailed it. The enthusiasm for the new season was being slowly muted by the gray skies and the equally dull performance from everyone in red pinstripes not named Roy Halladay
Then, the seventh inning rolled around and a funny thing happened: the sun started to peek through the clouds and shine, and it would seem that was all the inspiration the Phillies would need. From there, the Phillies mounted a 5-run comeback that stretched the eighth and ninth innings and taught us all once again what makes these Phillies the team that they are: the resiliency of a veteran squad who has been in these positions before and has proven time and again that they have what it takes to come through.
John Mayberry was welcomed to the fraternity of heroes that populates the Phillies roster from top to bottom when he converted a walk off hit in the ninth inning of the Phils’ 5-4 Opening Day victory as he completed a rally begun by some of the recent Phillies’ mainstays, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.
It was no illusion when, as the first shaving crème pie of the season was lathered on the face of John Mayberry, that the day was just a little brighter than it had started, the season outlook just a little less muted than it had been but hours before.
That brightness would continue through Saturday’s game, in which Cliff Lee made his triumphant return to the friendly confines of South Philadelphia, striking out 11 batters and walking 0 in a seven-inning performance that saw Lee record the vaunted rotation’s first official win and ultimately saw the highly-criticized Phillies offense put up 9 runs driven in by 6 different batters.
Roy Oswalt and the gang completed the sweep on Sunday in front of a packed house in now-always sunny Philadelphia. The offense once again came through with seven runs, four of which came from Ryan Howard by way of a 3-run homer in the first inning and an RBI double later on. Ben Francisco came through once again, contributing a solo homer and a not-quite-Rowand-esque catch against the outfield scoreboard. Still pretty sweet though,
Now the Phils welcome in the lowly New York Mets amidst sun and warmth in Philadelphia with Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton making their 2011 debuts and Roy Halladay attempting to get his first win after a no-decision that preceded the heroics of the Opening Day comeback win.
We’ll be back to discuss that series after the games are played, but for now here’s to 3-0 and hopefully to 6-0 after the Broad Street Baseballers take care of business against the Mutts.