Phillies’ bats explode in 11-6 Game 1 victory over Cardinals

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If you want to beat Roy Halladay, you have to get to him early. That’s the common thought around baseball and it’s backed by the statisctics.

The Cards followed that strategy to near-perfection in the early going, plating three runs in the top of the first inning courtesy of a Lance Berkman home run.

But the St. Louis bats quickly went silent and the Phillies were able to rally in a major way against starter Kyle Lohse and the Redbirds’ bullpen.

Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and Chase Utley went 3-for-5 with three runs scored. Hunter Pence drove in two runs, Raul Ibanez drove in three, and Ryan Howard drove in four.

The Phillies, baseball’s best team during the regular season, grabbed a convincing 11-6 Game 1 victory.

Notes

* The leadoff batter reached base both times Halladay faced St. Louis during the regular season. Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal continued that trend on Saturday evening in Philadelphia, and Berkman made Doc pay with a massive three-run homer to open the game’s scoring.

* Lohse followed a six-pitch first inning with a six-pitch second inning. Then needed only 11 pitches to get through the third. The Phillies appeared to be pressing early on, and the Citizens Bank Park jumbotron was broadcasting motivational movie scenes (Hoosiers, Varsity Blues, etc.) from the start.

* Philadelphia found life in the bottom of the fourth, when Utley missed a home run to right field by about two feet. He wound up with a double and came around to score a few batters later when Cardinals third baseman David Freese mishandled a pop-up in foul territory and Victorino singled to left field.

* Howard turned on a hanging changeup from Lohse with two runners on in the sixth inning to put the Phillies up 4-3. The shot sent a charge through Citizens Bank Park, which had been muted to some degree since Berkman’s three-run first-inning blast. Raul Ibanez made the roar even more audible when he ripped a two-run shot into the right field stands a few minutes later to give Philly a 6-3 lead.

* After Berkman’s homer, Halladay retired 23 of the next 24 batters he faced. And 21 batters in a row. Only two balls left the infield.

* The Cardinals scored three runs on five hits in the top of the ninth, after Halladay was removed.

* Matt Holliday was able to pinch-hit late in the defeat, suggesting he might be ready to return to starting left field duties in either Game 2 or Game 3 of this five-game series.

* Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET. Cliff Lee will face Chris Carpenter.

Rougned Odor didn’t technically steal home, but he basically did

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Just saw this from last night’s Tigers-Rangers game. It was pretty wild.

Rougned Odor walked in the seventh inning. He broke for second on a steal and was safe due to the throw going wild, allowing him to reach third base. The Tigers called on reliever Daniel Stumpf and he was effective in retiring the next two batters, leaving Odor on third with two out.

Stumpf, a lefty, was paying no attention whatsoever to Odor, so Odor just took off for home, attempting a straight steal. Stumpf was so surprised that he tried to throw home to nail Odor, and in so doing, he balked. That technically means that Odor scored on the balk, but I think it’s safe to say he would’ve scored on the strait steal regardless. Watch:

 

He definitely gets points for style.

 

Aroldis Chapman is pitching himself out of a job

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman looked shaky again last night, coming in to the game with a three-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to the Mets’ Amed Rosario. He would nail down the save eventually, giving Sonny Gray his first win as a Yankee, but Chapman’s struggles were the talk of the game afterward.

It was the third appearance in a row in which Chapman has given up at least one run, allowing five runs on three hits — two of them homers — and walking four in his last three and a third innings pitched. He’s also hit a batter. That’s just the most acute portion of a long slide, however. He posted a 0.79 ERA in his first 12 appearances this year, before getting shelled twice and then going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, missing over a month. Since returning he’s allowed 12 runs — ten earned — in 23 appearances, breaking out to a 4.09 ERA. He’s also walked ten batters in that time. At present, his strikeout rate is the worst he’s featured since 2010. His walk rate is up and he’s allowing more hits per nine innings than he ever has.

It’s possible that he’s still suffering from shoulder problems. Whether or not that’s an issue, he looks to have a new health concern as he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the game’s final play last night when he ran over to cover first base. Chapman told reporters after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about,” and Joe Girardi said that Chapman would not undergo an MRI or anything, but he was clearly grimacing as he came off the mound and it’s something worth watching.

Also worth watching: Dellin Betances and David Robertson, Chapman’s setup men who have each shined as Yankees closers in the past and who may very soon find themselves closing once again if Chapman can’t figure it out. And Chapman seems to know it. He was asked if he still deserves to be the closer after the game. His answer:

“My job is to be ready to pitch everyday. As far as where I pitch, that’s not up to me. If at some point they need to remove me from the closer’s position, I’m always going to be ready to pitch.”

That’s a team-first answer, and for that Chapman should be lauded. But it’s also one that suggests Chapman himself knows he’s going to be out of a closer’s job soon if he doesn’t turn things around.