Jimmy Rollins stretched his hitting streak to 37 games with a double in his final at bat, but the Cardinals put the game out of reach early, beating the Phillies 13-5 in a dismal 2006 debut.
Rollins took Adam Wainwright’s 3-0 pitch down the right-field line, giving the sellout crowd something to cheer about long after the teams emptied their bullpens. J-Roll hit the ball hard for outs in his previous two trips to the plate before roping a double past first baseman Albert Pujols.
The Cardnials put the Phillies away early, blasting Jon Lieber and Julio Santana for an eight-run fourth inning, including a grand slam by former Phillie Scott Rolen. Pujols added to the onslaught with two homers of his own. As a team, the Cards uncorked 17 hits.
This was Lieber’s worst outing in a Phillies uniform, going 3 1-3 innings with eight earned runs and a homer. Usually, when a veteran pitcher has a poor spring training, as Lieber had, you pay no mind. Now, you start to wonder. Even though he was facing a mighty offense, he was still abysmal. Perhaps it was the rain or cold. I still can’t understand why Lieber wasn’t pitching to Sal Fasano, who will likely serve as his personal catcher the rest of the way. It’s more important to make your starting pitcher comfortable than reward Lieberthal for service. Lieby has been rewarded quite enough, if you catch my drift.
Santana, voted least important Phillie on the 25-man roster by yours truly, was just as pitiful in relief, finishing the fourth and giving up two more.
No pitcher, on either side, looked outstanding, and the Phillies mounted a steady attack the entire game. Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard went deep off starter Chris Carpenter, and the team nearly matched the opposition with 14 hits of their own. Carpenter lasted five innings and gave up four runs.
I sort of like how the Phillies didn’t wilt away and scratched out a respectable five runs. And you’ve got to love Chase Utley. Same old Chase. He busted it hard from first to home on Burrell’s seventh-inning double as if the score was tied. Utley went 3-for-5.
The game featured a couple of new faces, including Abraham Nunez and Aaron Rowand, who went 2-for-3. It's nice seeing a hitter of Rowand's caliber that deep in the lineup.
As for the revamped bench, discussed in no less than 10,000 offseason blog entries, Alex Gonzalez, Shane Victorino and David Dellucci went 0-3.
Burrell gets Phillies’ player of the game honors for starting off like he did in 2005, when he was voted player of the week twice in the first two months. He is a noticeably changed hitter from two seasons ago.
The best player on the field today was Scott Rolen, who responded to the crowd's boos pretty much how J.D. Drew, Larry "Chipper" Jones and the rest of our sworn enemies respond. He’s still the best defensive third baseman I’ve ever seen. If he stays healthy, this is a team that should win the World Series.