OK, so I borrowed that little cliche from the Philadelphia Inquirer, who informed us this morning that the Phils’ sweep of the Astros marked the first time since 1970 that the team has begun a season with three home wins.
What a great way to start off a highly anticipated season of Phillies baseball!
Last Friday, though, I was feeling more apprehension than anticipation. First, it was April Fool’s Day, which just doesn’t strike me as a good day to begin the baseball season. Second, upon awakening that morning, I was greeted not with warmth and sunshine, but with the sight of snowflakes falling outside. Not just any snowflakes – giant, mutant snowflakes that began sticking to things. Third, the Phillies were facing the Astros, who are – get this! – the only NL team with a winning record against the Phils since 2004, and owners of a gaudy 16-7 record at Citizens Bank Park during that span (!). OK, so now it’s 16-10, but still…
But we had Roy Halladay on the mound, while they countered with Brett Myers. This seemed like a good thing. Roy is the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and Brett Myers is, well, Brett Myers.
Halladay breezed through the first eight Astros batters, but then Brett Myers – Brett Myers! – singled for the first Astros hit of the game. Myers would get another hit in the fifth, so of the five hits Halladay surrendered, two of them were to the opposing pitcher.
As if that weren’t painful enough for me to stomach, Myers was the one who looked more ace-like, needing only 85 pitches though 7 innings, while Halladay threw 101 in 6. Still, Halladay had given up only one run.
Then the bullpen got into the game, and promptly gave up three more runs. With the Astros up 4-0 in the seventh, some of those watching at home may have given in to the urge to turn off the TV, thus saving themselves from further distress.
O ye of little faith.
Make that me. Yes, it pains me to admit that I turned it off. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore! I later found out that the Phillies cut the lead in half in the bottom of the seventh, and then staged a ninth inning comeback with a barrage of singles to end up winning 5-4.
Thankfully, the next two games of the series were much less stressful to watch. 🙂 Cliff Lee struck out 11 as the Phils won, 9-4; Roy Oswalt was victorious over his old team in a 7-3 win for the Phils.
Today is an off day, and tomorrow the Mets come to town, facing fourth ace Cole Hamels to start off a three-game set. C’mon, Cole, let’s keep that momentum going!!
After a three year break for no real reason from visiting stadiums, we started back up in August 2005 by taking a vacation to St. Petersburg, Florida. While there, we planned on visiting Tropicana Field, among other things.
Oh wait. That’s not Tropicana Field. That’s the beach at Fort DeSoto Park. Okay, so it’s not baseball, but we went to the beach too, and I thought it was a good picture.
It’s important to note at this point that between our last stadium trip to Toronto, and this one, my photography entered the digital age. Therefore, I took way more pictures than before, so I have many to choose from for including here.
On August 20, 2005, we made our way to the Trop, home of the Devil Rays. Remember, the Devil hadn’t been exorcised from the team yet! 🙂
Ah yes, more palm trees. I love palm trees! If they would grow in Pennsylvania I’d surround my house with them. Oops, sorry I got off track there. Back to the game.
First off, I was actually glad that the Trop is a domed stadium. Florida in August (and probably the rest of the summer, for that matter) is hot, and very humid. After sweating like pigs at some Florida State League (single A) games, we welcomed the air-conditioned environment of the Trop.
The Devil Rays in 2005 were, to put it mildly, not very good. Consequently, the crowds were usually pretty small. This day, however, drew almost twice as many people as the night before, 19,041 vs. 10,188, mostly because there was some sort of Christian music concert prior to the game, and many of the attendees stayed for the game as well.
Our seats were way up in the upper level, directly behind home plate. Not only were they cheap, they offered a great view of the entire field.
My husband sometimes prefers these seats over ones closer to the field, as from this vantage point you can watch the entire play unfolding below.
The pitching matchup for tonight featured Joaquin Benoit for the Texas Rangers, and in his first full season, Scott Kazmir for the Rays.
A 2-run homer by Jorge Cantu would help give Kazmir a 4-1 lead in 6 innings of work. The lone run he gave up was on a solo shot by Gary Matthews, Jr. In the 9th, Danys Baez would give up another solo homer to Alfonso Soriano to make it 4-2, but would hold on for the save. Benoit took the loss for the Rangers.
On our way out after the game, we saw this along the concourse – a giant player crashing through the wall.
Interestingly, there is another giant player on the outside of the stadium. Not sure what it is about these giant players. Too bad they couldn’t have come down off the wall to help the team to a few more wins!
We made a return visit to the Trop in 2008, on June 22. Amazingly, Tropicana Field had not changed its name in the interim (unlike the three most recent stadiums I’ve written about)! The team, however, had changed its name. Gone was the Devil, and with a new name came a new logo and new uniform colors.
On this particular day, the Rays were celebrating their mascot Raymond’s birthday. Multiple mascots were milling around the main entry rotunda. My daughter, who loves mascots, was in her glory, wanting a picture with each of them. Here she is with the birthday boy:
Since we were there really early, we had plenty of time to wander around and check out the rays touch tank in center field.
Not sure why my daughter looks rather unhappy. Anyway, the tank is filled with lots of these guys, leisurely swimming by and waiting to be touched:
After we were done with the rays, we went back to our seats. This time we decided to try an outfield view. We noticed a single yellow seat amid a sea of blue ones a few rows in front of us, and wondered what it signified. It turned out to mark the location of the first home run hit in (Devil) Rays history, by Wade Boggs, on March 31, 1998. So of course I made my kids sit next to it so I could take a picture.
The Rays were hosting the Houston Astros this day, with Brandon Backe pitching for the Astros, and Scott Kazmir (once again) for the Rays. The Rays jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on a 2-run homer by Evan Longoria in the second inning (on this swing!).
Unfortunately, the lead would not hold up, as Kazmir then proceeded to give up three runs, all coming on long balls. Hunter Pence hit a solo shot in the 5th, and Carlos Lee added a 2-run homer in the 6th. There would be no further scoring, as Houston held on for the 3-2 victory.
You’ll notice in the above pictures that my son decided he needed a Rays cap while at the game. Of course, we are Phillies fans. Little did we know at the time that the Phillies and Rays would be meeting in October. On the day of Game 1, he decided to wear his Rays cap to school, along with his Cole Hamels jersey. Unable to pick sides, I guess.
As we were leaving after the game, we noticed that the sun had come out. During the game, there were some brutal thunderstorms going on outside – again, glad we were in the dome. I think this is one of the prettiest walkways at a stadium that I have seen. And of course, there are palm trees!
Join me next time, when we visit PNC Park.
(all photos by me)