Phillies start with a bang in 14-10 win over Rangers

Getting the ball J-Rolling: Jimmy Rollins after hitting a grand slam in the second inning, his 200th homer.
Getting the ball J-Rolling: Jimmy Rollins after hitting a grand slam in the second inning, his 200th homer. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: April 02, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas - The Phillies played Monday for 3 hours and 36 minutes, not sufficient time to override a city's apathy that spanned an entire winter and bled into springtime, but enough to create the kind of first impression they so craved. Jimmy Rollins swatted away his detractors. His teammates withstood a furious rally. The lineup produced from top to bottom.

Phillies 14, Rangers 10, and Ryne Sandberg's bunch could sleep well because it led the league in everything after one day.

"This team is a different team than it was last year," Ryan Howard said. "We didn't give up. We didn't quit."

Those are the sort of statements that require more than nine innings of baseball to prove, although it was difficult to find fault in the Phillies beyond Cliff Lee's eight-run clunker, which was later reduced to a footnote.

It was their most runs in an opener since 1900, when the Phillies defeated the Boston Beaneaters, 19-17, at the Baker Bowl. They hung 13 on Texas at Globe Life Park before the sixth inning concluded. This was a clinic on how to expose ineffective pitching.

The Phillies scored 3.77 runs per game in 2013, their lowest output since 1988. They added only Marlon Byrd, 36, to the equation. They sputtered for a month of spring exhibitions and were held scoreless in the preseason's final 27 innings.

Instead, on Monday, an opportunistic lineup forced favorable counts on 191 pitches from five Rangers arms. They mounted 17 hits and walked six times.

"It was right on time," Sandberg said. "It all worked. It all came through. We got a spark from J-Roll early on to loosen up everybody and everyone in the lineup caught fire."

"It's only one game," Rollins said. "It was a good game."

Rollins, who flew to Texas late Sunday night after spending time with his pregnant wife, clobbered a grand slam in the second inning to build a 6-0 lead. It evaporated by the third inning, and Texas led, 7-6.

The offense never stopped. Every starter but Chase Utley scored a run. Marlon Byrd and Cody Asche padded the lead with solo homers in the later innings. Asche, the 23-year-old third baseman, scored four runs on his first opening day. Ben Revere slashed three singles, scored two runs, and stole a base.

The game was tied in the fifth when Sandberg called for his first pinch-hitter of 2014. The scouting report said Pedro Figueroa, a 28-year-old veteran of 24 major-league games, could not retire righties. Sandberg played a hunch with his early substitution. John Mayberry Jr. assumed leftfielder Tony Gwynn Jr.'s spot and promptly doubled home two runs.

"It was just a gut feeling," Sandberg said, "that it was going to be an offensive day."

The Phillies embraced patience and American League baseball. They walked three times in the second before Rollins' grand slam. They worked favorable counts, stole bases, and took extra bags on defensive lapses.

Rangers righthander Tanner Scheppers was the second pitcher since 1945 to make his first major-league start on opening day, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He retired the Phillies in order on nine pitches in the first inning, and that was the pitching apex for Texas. The 27-year-old righthander looked jittery, as did every Rangers reliever who followed him.

It took the Phillies 81 games a season ago to post double-digit runs. The two teams combined Monday for 31 hits, 10 walks, and nine pitchers used. It was not the prettiest of inaugurations, but it suited these Phillies just fine.

Still, Rollins hacked away in the batting cages long after the game ended. Cole Hamels, bound for Florida to continue his shoulder rehabilitation, packed two bags after the victory and served as a reminder of the hardships that lie ahead. And while Howard laughed at the dire winter predictions for his Phillies, he considered the larger picture.

"It's one game out of 162," Howard said, "but you definitely want to use that game to set the tone."


BY THE NUMBERS

17

Phillies hits in the opener.

15

Their total hits in the last four exhibition games combined.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb inquirer.com/phillieszone

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