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.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.