—From Citizens Bank Park
When Ryan Howard is at his best and Roy Halladay is on top of his game, the Phillies normally succeed.
That trend continued in Game 1 of the National League Division Series as Howard’s three-run homer, and Halladay’s eight strong innings led the Philadelphia Phillies to an 11-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
For five-plus innings, Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse gave the Phillies fits, retiring 10 in a row to start the game that stepped to the plate. Lohse made the Phillies look silly on numerous occasions. But the wheels fell off in a five-run sixth inning.
With the Phillies trailing 3-1, Howard teed off with one on and two outs, delivering a homer to right field on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. After a Shane Victorino single, Raul Ibanez would follow suit, launching a two-run home run to right field, giving the Phillies a 6-3 lead.
Howard’s home run was the eighth of his career in the playoffs. It was also his 31st RBI in postseason play, moving him into first place in franchise history.
“Lohse came out and he was throwing very well, mixing it up,” said Howard. “We just knew it was just a matter of time.”
At this time last year, Roy Halladay was completely unhittable. In the opener of the 2010 NLDS, Halladay tossed the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. This year, the results were different, but only for one inning.
During the final month of the regular season, the Cardinals were the hottest team in the National League. That hot streak carried over into the first inning. Rafael Furcal, who played despite injuring his hamstring on Monday, led off the game with single and was joined on the bases by Albert Pujols after a walk. One batter later, Berkman, who rejuvenated his career with 31 home runs during the regular season, hit the first pitch from Halladay off the facing of the second deck in right field to give the Cardinals an early 3-0 lead.
Halladay would settle down nicely following Berkman’s moonshot, retiring 21 in a row. He totaled 105 pitches over eight innings, striking out eight and walking just one.
Charlie Manuel loved the way Halladay shut it down from the second inning on. “He kept the game right there,” said Manuel. “He stopped the game and kept it there, and he gave us a chance to score runs.”
Halladay didn’t allow himself to stray from what he wanted to do before the game began. “Really, I just tried to stick with out plan,” said Halladay, who moved to 3-1 in the postseason. “I felt like for the most part we were making good pitches, just tried to continue with that, be aggressive, and let things take care of themselves.”
In the ninth inning, the Cardinals made it interesting, scoring three runs off of Michael Stutes and Ryan Madson, before Madson finally closed it out.
It was a tale of two games for Lohse, who threw just 23 pitches through the first three innings, including a six-pitch first. He would throw 54 more over the final 2 2/3 innings. All told, Lohse gave up six runs, five earned, on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.
In the fourth, Chase Utley hit a one-out double off the wall in right field for the Phillies first hit. Two batters later, Victorino got the Phillies on the board with a two-out single to left field, scoring Utley. In the seventh inning, the Phillies tacked on three more runs. Howard’s RBI Sac fly started the scoring and gave him four RBI’s. Victorino and Ibanez would then notch back-to-back RBI singles.
Hunter Pence knocked in two more in the eighth inning on a single, scoring Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, providing the Phillies ace with a sizable 11-3 cushion. The first six hitters in the Phillies lineup combined to go 13 for 25 with two homers and 11 runs batted in.
When the offense and pitching both show up for the Phillies, LaRussa understands they are a tough team to beat.
“The one thing you’re not going to do is – you have to outscore them with their starting pitching,” said LaRussa, “and that’s not going to be a good formula.”