The Phillies beat the Mets today by a score of 11-0 to win the series two games to one. Roy Halladay was his usual, spectacular self as he shut down the opposition. Halladay went seven innings without allowing a run on six hits and his first walk issued for the season.
The offense went back to work, pounding Mets pitching mercilessly. Every Phillies starter had a hit, including Halladay. Wilson Valdez led the team with four hits and three RBI. Placido Polanco had three RBI on two hits and Raul Ibanez smacked his first homer of the year, a two-run shot in the seventh.
The Phillies finish their first home stand of the year with a 5-1 record, scoring 43 runs in the process. Overall, the start of 2011 has been a great success for the Phillies. Here are some of the most encouraging signs:
The Offense: Those 43 runs in six games are a very big deal for a team whose offensive potential looked grim to some in the absence of both Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, who is now with the Nationals.
The runs have not been the only good news. The way they scored those runs is also impressive. Normally known as a home-run led offense, the Phillies have learned how to run the bases and play small ball, going station to station with a more patient approach at the plate.
The homers are still there, but have not played as prominent a role as they have in years past. In other words, the Phillies can score runs without the big bangs.
Over all six games, Howard has collected 12 hits, including three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. On Wednesday night against the Mets, Howard went four for four at the plate. He is now batting .480.
If the All-Star first baseman can keep up this pace, he is going to strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers all year long.
As for Rollins, he had a very rough 2010 that was plagued with injuries. But he is off to a good start in 2011, which is also a contract year for him.
Batting .375 in the three-hole so far, Rollins may be back to the J-Roll of old.
Wilson Valdez Is Up To The Task: When Chase Utley reported major knee injuries this spring training, the fan base let out a collective sigh of disappointment. The perennial All-Star is one of leaders on this team and probably their best overall hitter.
But Wilson Valdez, coming off a season where he got a lot of playing time due to injuries, is ready to fill the void.
Hitting .429 through six games and five starts, Valdez tried to imitate Ryan Howard on Thursday afternoon, going four for four with three RBI. With nine hits and five RBI in his five starts, Valdez has more than adequately filled the Utley void.
And his defense is probably a slight upgrade over Utley. Valdez has a cannon for an arm and now, his bat is on fire too.
Starting Pitching: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt all gave solid performances this week, as expected. Halladay has pitched twice and was even better in his second start.
As for Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, their first starts did not go quite as well. But three out of five is not bad.
However, no one should panic about either Hamels or Blanton. Hamels is a notoriously slow starter. Clearly, the California kid does not like chilly weather. His lifetime ERA in April is 4.45. In 2010, Hamels posted a 5.28 ERA in April.
Blanton has similar issues. So both pitchers should get better as the season progresses.
But these five guys are going to be something very special.
The Bullpen: Once thought to be the Achilles heel of this Phillies team, the bullpen has really stepped up their game this year.
Danys Baez has been great after being a total nightmare in 2010. Youngster Antonio Bastardo has matured and also looks very sharp. And J.C. Romero appears to have made the necessary adjustments to his game that were needed after he had issues in 2010 following elbow surgery.
With Brad Lidge gone and probably not returning until after the All-Star break, there are concerns about the back end of the pen, too. But both Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras are on the ball so far. Contreras collected his first save on Wednesday night and neither pitcher has allowed a run yet.
The pen is ready for the season!
Werth Who? : Ben Francisco is quickly making Phillies fans forget all about Jayson Werth and his exorbitant $129 million pay check with the Nationals.
Batting .320, Francisco has eight hits, five RBI and two home runs so far. He might have a few more bombs if not for the cold, windy conditions in Philly right now. Francisco has hit the ball very, very hard in nearly every at-bat.
His defense has been good as well. Giving himself up for the team, Francisco smashed into the right field wall, back first on Sunday to catch a very long fly ball. He hit it so hard, part of the out of town scoreboard was knocked loose.
Francisco’s effort and right-handed power are exactly what the Phillies need in their starting right fielder.
The Phillies are off on their first road trip of the season. They take on the Braves in Atlanta tomorrow with Cliff Lee pitching. Game time is 7:35pm.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography