Have you seen that Seinfeld episode where George realizes that any decision he's ever made has been wrong? From there he decides to do the opposite for every decision he has to make for the rest of the show. Because if every instinct he's ever had has been wrong, then the opposite, has to be right.
That's how opening day 2014 felt for the Phillies. Up was down! Black was white! The offense hit! Cliff Lee sucked! The bullpen was decent!
We'll pick up the action in the 2nd inning at Globe Life Park (Globe Life Park?!) in Arlington where the game took a decidedly sharp turn from what everybody expected out of the Phillies. Much maligned slugger Ryan Howard led the inning off with a walk. Innocent enough, and nice to see the big man show some patience in his first at bat of the year. After a 2 out Carlos Ruiz walk there were men on 1st and 2nd for rookie 3rd baseman Cody Asche, and the young man sent an opposite field double to left scoring Howard and giving the Phils their first run and first lead of the season.
Up next was Tony Gwynn Jr (maybe 1/100th the talent as his dad - which is still good enough to be in the big leagues) and he also walked. If you're keeping score that's 3 walks for the Phils in the 2nd inning, would love to see how many innings they accomplished that feat last year. Leadoff man Ben Revere then delivered an RBI single for the Phils to go up 2-0 and load the bases for James Calvin Rollins. On the second pitch of his at-bat a left handed hitting Rollins rocketed his 200th career home run, a grand slam, a few rows deep in right center field. 6-0 Phillies. They did a fantastic job of making the Rangers pay for granting them 3 free passes, not to mention dropping all 6 runs with 2 outs. That's a good way to start the day!
Where's Yu Darvish when you need him? Rangers' manager Ron Washington was thinking to himself.
So you're thinking Cliff Lee on the mound good night, game over, drive home safely. Not so fast Cliff said. Miraculously Lee gave up a double, a single, and a walk sandwiched around a ground out to load the bases with 1 out. Leonys Martin delivered an RBI single and up stepped Josh Wilson, a guy with .225 career batting average. Wilson came through with a bases clearing double to cut the Phils lead to 6-4. Gut punch. Doubled over.
Okay, Cliff will settle down and we can still pull this thing out. Not so fast Cliff said. After the Phillies failed to score with men on 2nd and 3rd and no outs in the top of the third (Ryan Howard out by a country mile at home after going on contact), Lee gave up a 3 run bomb to Alex Rios. 7-6 Rangers and all the air was officially out of the 6 run inning balloon.
Astoundingly, there was no quit in the Phillies on one of the warmer opening days in recent memory. Chase Utley found himself up with Ben Revere in scoring position thanks to Benny and his jets 1st steal of the year. Like you've seen him do countless times before, Chase came up with a clutch RBI single to tie the game at 7.
Breathin' heavy here top of the 4th on the highway between Fort Worth and Dallas.
By the time the top of the 5th came around the Phillies had knocked out Texas' starter Tanner Scheppers (what a name), but their hit parade was far from over. With two men on Ryne Sandberg made his first in game managerial decision of the season and pinch hit right handed batter John Mayberry for lefty Tony Gwynn Jr. The Rangers' left hander Pedro Figueroa couldn't have been too happy with the move as Mayberry smoked a 2 run double into the gap to give the Phils a 9-7 lead. Sandberg 1 - Ron Washington - 0.
Cliff managed to claw his way through the 5th inning giving up 2 more hits and 1 more run. His line for the day 5 IP 11 H 8 R 8 ER 1 BB 1 K - 14.40 ERA. Cliff got the W with that crap line because he exited with a 9-8 lead. He better keep any run support comments to himself until Memorial Day.
There was no quit in the Phils bats today as Texas went through 5 pitchers and only 1 kept his ERA at 0.00 on the season. Highlights from the second half of the game included a low and inside pitch Marlon Byrd sent for a ride over the left field fence. Ben Revere racking up his 2nd steal, 3rd hit, and 3rd RBI of the game. For the cherry on top, Cody Asche sent a tracer deep down the line in right for his 3rd hit of the game and 1st home run of the season.
Tell me how you feel about the call from Tom McCarthy on the Asche home run, this is case in point for me as to why I can't stand McCarthy. What a lackadaisical call to an exciting moment in the game. Video courtesy of yours truly.
When it came to the bullpen, all wasn't good but Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon both pitched effectively. Jake Diekman had a quick and easy 6th inning but struggled immediately in the 7th before being pulled. BJ Rosenberg induced a no out bases loaded double play but then couldn't find the strike zone after that. The bullpen will be patch work, guaranteed, but if Bastardo and Pap are effective the Phils can win ball games.
If Cliff Lee has any more starts like that we're on a Roy Halladay watch. Cliff should not be capable of that kind of catastrophe, let's hope its an anomaly.
Undoubtedly this will be one of the more exciting games this season so soak it in now folks.
Relax kid, we got 161 of these to go.