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Mayberry Is The Hero In Phillies’ Season Opener

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—Somewhere in that bouncing mound of red and white was John Mayberry Jr., buried in the middle by his teammates for doing something that for most of Friday afternoon possibly only the Phillies thought was possible–finding a way to beat the Houston Astros. Much of the Phillies’ season opener was filled with broiling frustration, but for those who were willing to wait, and wait, and wait for the 2011 Phillies to arrive, they were duly rewarded. 

Mayberry’s walk-off, one-out single to centerfield snatched up a victory that was far from certain for the previous eight innings for the Phillies, who erupted for six ninth-inning hits, more than they had in the previous eight innings combined, to pull out a dramatic 5-4 victory over Houston before what was left of the 124th-straight sellout at Citizens Bank Park of 45,237.

Mayberry was the hero, stepping to the fore culminating a three-run ninth inning—after the Phillies had just four hits through eight. Mayberry’s single made a winner out of Danys Baez, and a loser of Houston closer Brandon Lyon.

In the ninth, trailing 4-2, Jimmy Rollins gave the Phillies the first spark with a lead-off single to right, sending up Ryan Howard as the potential tying run. The big first baseman worked a 3-2 count before singling up the middle against Lyon, giving Raul Ibanez an opportunity to be a hero.

Ibanez squandered that opportunity by flying out to second, but Rollins, being aggressive, took a chance and stole third, then scored on a punch shot single from Ben Francisco that drew the Phillies to within 4-3—leaving two on and one out for Carlos Ruiz, who came through in a number of big situations last year. Ruiz looked like he would be the hero, when he jumped on Lyon’s 0-1 pitch and drove it down the left-field line. But the ball curved foul.

Then Ruiz, ever the bulldog, followed by stroking a 1-2 pitch to left for a single, loading the bases with one out, and it was Wilson Valdez’s turn at this hero thing. First-pitch swinging, he turned on a Lyon fastball and smoked it to left, plating Howard with the tying run and setting up Mayberry’s heroics.

After a ball, foul, ball, foul sequence, Mayberry honed in on another fat Lyon fastball and ripped it to center, easily scoring Francisco and igniting an incredible celebration.

It also completed a pretty amazing–and improbable–comeback from a 4-0 deficit, a hole that seemed even larger the way Houston starter Brett Myers was pitching.

Lyon’s ninth-inning meltdown blew a masterful performance by the former Phillie, both on the mound and at the plate. Through six innings, Myers had as many hits as the Phillies—two. He received solid run support, buoyed by a two-run triple in the seventh by another former Phillie, Michael Bourn, who smacked a 1-0 pitch off reliever David Herndon to deep center.

The Bourn triple looked like it was the game-winning hit, as the Phillies came back with two runs in their half of the seventh. But that’s about all they get against Myers.

At one time, Myers, with his rustic Civil War hillbilly (or ZZ Top) beard jutting from his chin, had thrown just 63 pitches into the sixth inning, 33 for strikes. After a Valdez one-out double in the third, Myers retired the next 10-straight Phillies, until Shane Victorino broke up that run with a two-out walk in the sixth.

The sellout crowd, dormant through most of the game, suddenly came alive in the bottom of the seventh, when for the first time in the game the Phillies got two runners on after Placido Polanco led off with a walk and Rollins followed with a single to right.

What ignited the fans even more was when Howard stepped to the plate. Myers then made one of his few mistakes of the afternoon, when a curveball got by catcher Humberto Quintero to advance the runners to second and third. Howard made Myers pay with a shot to deep center that scored Polanco from third with the first run of the season for the Phils.

Ibanez followed by grounding out to first base scoring Rollins from third, and making it 4-2 Houston. But Myers averted further trouble by coaxing Ruiz to fly out to center.

That seemed to be it for the Phils. Houston pitching had baffled the Phils to that point, until Mayberry played the hero’s role perfectly–getting creamed later for the biggest hit of his young career.

Phils’ starter Roy Halladay deserved better. Though he got a no-decision and labored through six innings, Halladay gave up five hits and one run, with six strikeouts. But he threw 101 pitches to get there.

Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito

 

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