Fresh on the heels of some high-scoring matches in Washington, the Phillies continued their opening road trip in Houston last night with their third high-scoring victory in four games, defeating the Astros by a lopsided tally of 8-0. The poor Astros were coming off being swept by the San Francisco Giants and at times looked apathetic as starter Bud Norris couldn't get through three innings and his replacements couldn't stop the bleeding.
The offense is understandably the big story coming out of this game, being on a shocking hot streak to start the season, but worthy of more than a little attention was the fact that this was J. A. Happ's first start of the year. Although he never worked quickly or efficiently -- working only five innings in his allotment of a hundred or so pitches -- and he allowed some hits, he spread those hits out and kept the Astros batters off base. It's very hard to argue with the scoreless line he delivered and the win he picked up, and he looked confident and poised on the mound. It was a feel-good sign for one member of the Phillies' rotation after underwhelming performances from Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick.
Young reliever David Herndon made a promising appearance with a nice lead to work with, throwing two scoreless innings. Lower-pressure situations are a nice place for inexperienced relievers to gain confidence.
This early series against the Astros is also notable for the fact that it provides the Phillies with a reunion with their former third baseman, Pedro Feliz, who signed with Houston after the Phillies let him walk in the off-season. Based on today, we got the much better deal. Placido Polanco, despite allowing a runner to reach base on a grounder that took a nasty hop off his finger, went a stunning 4-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI. Feliz was held hitless. In case you were wondering, Polanco's batting average in his first five games back in Phillies red is .579. If nothing else he is sure making Ruben Amaro look like a genius.
Having a better night than Feliz was People's Phillies Blog favorite Michael Bourn, who went 2 for 5 and had some nice plays in center. But even the superhuman power of a Michael Bourn could not stop the Phillies' offense. Only Shane Victorino failed to get a hit, and Raul Ibanez, one of the only Phillies not off to a very hot offensive start against the Nats, seemed to get things going with two doubles on a 3-for-4 night.
The Phillies have been displaying a phenomenal ability to get on base in their first few games, and that will lead to runs. This time they combined it with pitching that shut the Astros down for another blowout. The Phillies can't necessarily score eight runs every game, but if they keep up the practices that led them there tonight we can expect good things from this year. Tomorrow night the Phillies' Jamie Moyer and the Astros' Felipe Paulino face off in their first starts of the season. Unfortunately the Phillies are not expected to face former teammate Brett Myers in this series.