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


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.


* 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.

2018 Preview: Oakland Athletics

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics.

The A’s have finished last in the AL West for three straight years. If you believe the folks at Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus and anyone else who makes projections, they’ll either finish in last again or come within a game or two of it. There’s not a lot of suspense to my prediction here — I’ll end up picking them to finish fifth — but the prediction is not really what a preview is about. It’s about the shape of the team and what we can expect in broad brushes.

While I can’t foretell greatness for the 2018 Oakland Athletics, I can’t say the broad brushes are bad. At least if you grade on a curve. It won’t be a good team, but they’ll be worth watching because they have a lot of good, fun and interesting players who are likely to be on that next good Oakland A’s team in the way Stephen Vogt and Brett Lawrie were not.

Their lineup is pretty spiffy for a second division team. Khris Davis, Matt Joyce and new acquisition Jonathan Lucroy are known commodities both inside and outside A’s fandom, but people who don’t pay much attention to the goings on in Oakland may not be fully aware of just how good and promising Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are. Olson hit 24 homers in 59 games last year. That’s not a sustainable pace — the league will figure him out to — but even regression from that will be fantastic. Chapman hit 14 in half a season and played superior defense at third base. He also struck out 92 times in half a season but who’s counting? [editor: everyone counts everything in baseball]. Hey, look, dingers! Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healey are gone from last year’s crew and Stephen Piscotty is new in town. Marcus Semien is a decent bat for a shortstop. All-in-all that’s a lineup that will play, and play very, very well if Chapman and Olson are what they’ve shown themselves to be thus far.

At the risk of criminal understatement, allow me to observe that the starting pitching is not as promising. Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman are at the top of the rotation. On good teams they’d be in the middle or the back. The rest of their rotation options — Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn, who will miss the start of the regular season with a sore forearm — are less-than-impressive. They just signed Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson from the scrap heap hoping, I guess, to recreate some of that, uh, 2010 magic? 2010 was a long time ago!

Jharel Cotton would’ve been in the mix but he’s now out for the year for Tommy John surgery. A.J. Puk, the A’s top prospect would be a nice midseason upgrade, but he’s hurt. Not seriously, but the A’s will probably be more careful with him now than they would’ve been, which still would’ve been careful. All-in-all, there was a lack of quality arms to begin with, but with the injuries mounting, starting pitching could be a trash fire for the A’s.

The bullpen has a new look with newcomers Ryan Buchter, Yusmeiro Petit and Emilio Pagan joining 2017 in-season additions Blake Treinen and Chris Hatcher. That’s a pretty good and pretty interesting group which was going to see a lot of innings as it was in our new bullpenning era, but now that the rotation looks shaky as hell, they’ll see even more. If you’re curious about the limits of leaning on a bullpen, postseason-style are, Oakland will be running a pretty fun experiment to that end in 2018.

I look at this club’s bats — especially the young guys upon whom its so very easy to project so much promise and optimism, because I’m a sucker for hitting prospects — and think that they can outperform those statsy projections and be better than the Rangers and Mariners. Then I think about how the upside — UPSIDE! — for the rotation is 380 innings from Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson and I sorta wanna cry.

If the A’s get some breaks and some unexpectedly good (or average) pitching performances, they could certainly finish above the cellar. Perhaps well above the cellar. For now, though, I’m guessing that they’ll be in 80-win territory at best and finish last in a division that does not have any teams totally punting, making for a competitive and, subsequently, tough year.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL West