Hunter Pence welcomed back, Roy Oswalt …not so much
In the top of the first inning Hunter Pence strode to the familiar right-handed batter’s box at Minute Maid Park, only this time he was wearing a Philadelphia Phillies uniform. The small gathering of fans, I wouldn’t really call it a crowd, greeted Hunter with a loud and lengthy round of applause. It was as if they were saying “we really wish you were still on our team.”
Pence promptly smacked a double to the right-field corner he routinely patrolled for the better part of five seasons. Brian Bogusevic, one of several would-be replacements for the former Astros All-Star, was able to get leather on the ball but couldn’t quite corral the liner. But Pence would be left stranded at second when Brett Myers struck out Ryan Howard with a nasty curve. When Roy Oswalt came up to bat for the first time the reception was warm but subdued. Oswalt hit a shot down the first base line and was thrown out when Carlos Lee made an impressive diving play. In what was billed as a homecoming for Pence and teammate Roy Oswalt, it was instead Myers who would own the night.
Myers held the vaunted Phillies attack to a single run on six hits through eight innings. The former Phillie threw 107 pitches en route to his second straight win. He had command of all of his pitches and executed his game plan to near perfection. After struggling through a disappointing season Myers seems to have rekindled some of the magic he exhibited in 2010. In his last three starts Myers has allowed a total of three earned runs. Myers also went two for three at the plate with a pair of singles off Oswalt.
Humberto Quintero had a nice night at the plate against his old battery mate. “Q” went 3 for 4 on the night and drove in a run. The Astros took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning thanks to a pair of defensive miscues by the Phillies, neither of which was scored an error. In the fifth inning Carlos Lee hit a pop fly that landed in the Crawford Boxes for a two-run homer, giving Houston a 4-1 lead. The next time Lee came to the plate he was hit in the hand by an Oswalt fastball. I think Roy was pissed that he was trailing by three runs and hadn’t really pitched that badly. What made matters worse was that Oswalt and Charlie Manuel argued that the ball hit Lee’s bat. Clearly it hit the hand and I think Roy went in there on purpose. It looked like Carlos could be seriously injured, but he shook it off and stayed in the game.
The Astros have had their troubles this year to say the least. But they are prepared to play the role of spoiler against a Phils team with a magic number of two to clinch a playoff spot. Not on our field! Since 2004 the Astros are 31-19 against Philadelphia. No other N.L. team has a winning record against Philadelphia in that time frame. The Astros are also the only N.L. team (besides the Phillies) with a winning record at Citizen’s Bank Park. Remember that four game sweep late last season? It won’t be easy this time. Cole Hamels takes the mound against another former Phillie J.A. Happ tomorrow night.