Dead in the water for seven innings and lifeless for most of the game, the Phillies rallied for three runs in the ninth inning against Houston, stringing together six singles, to take the season's opener 5-4.
Roy Halladay started and went six innings while yielding one earned run on five hits. He also beat out an infield hit in the third with Wilson Valdez on second , but was called out by Bob Davidson, killing a potential rally that might have seen him remain in the game beyond the sixth. Replays showed he beat the throw. No matter. JC Romero and David Herndon surrendered three runs between them in so-called relief and the Astros took what looked like a solid 4-0 lead behind Brett Myers. Myers wasn't really all that impressive, but he managed to keep the free-swinging Phils off-balance sufficiently. When they did tag a few solid balls off the former Phillie, they were hit right at people.
New rightfielder Ben Francisco had an adventurous day, bobbling a ball for a two-base error that didn't lead to a run. In the ninth inning Francisco had a key hit driving in Jimmy Rollins for the first of three runs to get the scoring started in the winning rally. That hit more than atoned for the error; it made Francisco a key part of the team from day one. John Mayberry drove in the winning run on another single, helping to cement his place on the team as well. Nothing quite makes a player feels he belongs quite as much as driving in the winning run on Opening Day in a comeback victory!
Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins had two hits apiece to pace the offense, 60% of which came in that eventful ninth inning.
The Phils lineup featured Shane Victorino in the leadoff spot and JRoll batting third, where Utley normally hit. The oddest decision was to put Raul Ibanez in the five hole instead of inserting the righty Francisco between the lefties Howard and Ibanez. Hard to say whether or not Charlie Manuel didn't want to put too much pressure on Francisco or just felt Ibanez is the more proven rbi man.Correction: The explanation for the batting order was simple yet eluded me: Myers throws right-handed. The next night when Houston started a lefty, Manuel flipped Francisco and Ibanez in the order.
It was a solid way to begin a season in which starting pitching was expected to dominate (Halladay wasn't dominant but he was good), the relief corps was suspect (it still is) and the offense was a big question mark (one inning doesn't yet erase the doubts.)