For Chris Wheeler’s 64 and 2/3 birthday, the broadcast team provided the cake. The baseball team provided the fireworks.
The Phillies jumped on the Astros early, tagging the starter, Bud Norris, for three runs in the first. Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco set the table and Ryan Howard doubled in Rollins to get the party started. Two batters later, Raul Ibanez knocked in two more and the Phillies cruised from there.
Starter J.A. Happ was solid in his debut, going five innings, with five K’s, holding the Astros scoreless. The Phillies bullpen was equally steady, pitching four shut-out frames, including two scoreless from rule-5 draft pick David Herndon.
The Astros pitching did not fare quite as well. Starter Norris was chased in the third, after throwing 82 pitches. Although he only surrendered the three in the first, Norris flirted with danger in both the second and third innings, jamming the bases full. Command was a struggle for Norris as he allowed four free passes in 2 2/3 innings of work. The bullpen fared even worse, allowing five more runs on ten hits.
There were no shortage of offensive studs for the Phils as they brought eight runs across the plate.
Ibanez, who struggled in the first series of the season, broke out of his funk, going 3-4 with two doubles, a walk, and three RBI’s. Howard also doubled twice, as the Phillies pounded out seven extra-base hits, including Chase Utley’s first bomb of the season.
Rollins, often criticized for his atypical approach to batting lead-off has shown through four games that he can fit the mold of that role. He drew two walks in tonights contest and scored twice. So far Rollins has six walks on the season, a total that he did not reach until mid-May of last season. He also gathered two hits, including a double. Polanco is also proving his value, going 4-5, with two ribbies and two runs scored.
Victorino was the only position player held hit-less despite three hard hit balls for outs, including a spectacular catch from former Phillie Michael Bourn.
The Phillies lineup has collected ten or more hits in their first four games, the first time they’ve accomplished the feat since 1926. That club, led by Art Fletcher went on to a 58-93 season. I have a feeling these Phillies will fare much better.