This Phillies season started the same way the last one ended: 1-0. The difference is this time the Phillies won.
Roy Halladay escaped a first-inning jam then cruised through the next seven innings as the Phillies handed the Pirates a 1-0 loss on Opening Day at PNC Park.
The offensive star, if there can be an offensive star in a 1-0 game, was Carlos Ruiz. He had three of the Phillies’ eight hits, but it was his sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, scoring Ty Wigginton, that provided the winning margin.
The low-scoring affair may be the Phillies’ recipe for winning games this season. Without as much firepower on offense as in previous years, particularly with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the disabled list, the Phillies may have to win more low-scoring games than in the past.
Halladay certainly held up his end of the bargain. He did not allow a hit after the first inning. He didn’t walk a batter, although he did hit two Pirates with pitches.
As is his pattern, Halladay ran into trouble in the first inning, although nobody hit the ball hard. Alex Presley blooped a leadoff single into center field. Jose Tabata barely made contact on a subsequent hit-and-run, but he dribbled an infield single down the third-base line. But Halladay induced Andrew McCutchen to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, featuring a nice backhand by Jimmy Rollins and a smooth turn at second base by rookie Freddy Galvis, then retired the next batter on a fly ball to left field to escape the jam.
That was the Pirates’ opportunity to score off Halladay. He dominated their lineup the rest of the game. They did not get another hit.
Halladay retired nine in a row until hitting McCutchen with a pitch in the fourth inning. Then he retired the next 13 Pirates in a row before hitting another batter in the eighth inning. The fourth inning, with a wide throw by Rollins that was covered up by Wigginton’s sweep tag at first base and a nice catch by John Mayberry Jr. in deep left field, produced the only nervous moments Halladay experienced the remainder of the game.
The only nervousness for Phillies fans concerned whether they would score off Pirates starter Erik Bedard. As was the case with Halladay, the Phillies’ best opportunity to score came early in the game. Mayberry and Ruiz delivered back-to-back one-out singles. The rally was thwarted, however, when Galvis grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Bedard faced the minimum number of batters in the second through fifth innings. Ruiz singled in the fifth, but was erased on another inning-ending double play by Galvis.
The Phillies finally produced a run in the seventh. With one out, Wigginton singled to center field. Mayberry followed with a double down the right-field line, finally advancing a runner to third base. Ruiz followed with a fly ball to right field. Third-base coach Juan Samuel gambled in sending Wigginton home, but Tabata’s throw was on the first-base side of the plate, allowing Wigginton to slide home safely with the game’s only run.
Wigginton’s run broke a streak of 15 scoreless innings by the Phillies with Halladay on the mound. That streak, of course, includes the Phillies’ season-ending 1-0 loss in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series against the Cardinals.
Halladay shut the Pirates down in the eighth, although he did hit his second batter, ending his streak of consecutive outs at 13. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his first save as a Phillie.
One down, 161 to go.
And you get the feeling this won’t be the last 1-0 game we see from the Phillies this season.