Rollins, Phils have Texas-sized start in opener
Shortstop's grand slam part of big day for bats to pick up Lee in win
ARLINGTON -- Anybody who saw the Phillies play the past five weeks in Spring Training watched an offense that could not score, much less string together quality at-bats against pitchers seemingly destined for Triple-A.
The Phillies did not score a single run in their final three Spring Training games.
But on Monday, they knocked out 17 hits in a 14-10 victory over the Rangers on Opening Day at Globe Life Park, the most runs they have scored in their season opener since a 19-17 victory over the Boston Beaneaters in 1900.
Guess Spring Training doesn't mean diddly?
"You said it," Jimmy Rollins said with a smile.
Rollins ignited Monday's offensive attack when he crushed a grand slam to right field in the second inning against Rangers right-hander Tanner Scheppers, who was just the second pitcher since 1945 to make his first big league start on Opening Day. The blast gave the Phillies a 6-0 lead.
It was the 200th home run of Rollins' career.
"I guarantee you he wasn't thinking about a home run right there," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
"I was in the dugout right before that, and was like, 'It would be cool to have your first hit be a grand slam on Opening Day,'" Rollins said.
It helped bail out Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who allowed 11 hits and eight runs in just five innings to become the first Phillies pitcher to allow eight or more earned runs in a start and earn a win since Dick Ruthven on Aug. 31, 1981. Lee also became the first pitcher to accomplish the feat since Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson on May 17, 2013, and the first National League pitcher to do it since San Diego's Woody Williams on April 7, 2001.
"I'm not happy with the way I pitched," Lee said. "I'm proud of the way we swung the bat."
The Phillies' offense owed Lee at least one. He has had some of the worst run support in baseball since he re-signed with the Phillies in December 2010, ranking 81st out of 84 qualifying pitchers with a 3.74 run-support average.
"In a lot of ways, maybe he had a game like this coming, because run support has been a problem a little bit in the past," Sandberg said.
But the offensive showing probably surprised more than a few outsiders. The Phillies scored the fourth-fewest runs in baseball last season and posted a .632 OPS in Spring Training, which was the lowest mark in baseball.
"They don't need to be," said Ryan Howard, asked why the bats weren't there in Spring Training. "They need to be there when we needed them to be there, and that was today. We needed them to be there today."
It was 7-7 in the fifth when Sandberg had John Mayberry Jr. pinch-hit for Tony Gwynn Jr. with runners on first and second and one out. Mayberry ripped a double to left-center field against Rangers left-hander Pedro Figueroa to score both runners to give the Phillies a two-run lead.
"It just seemed like a scoring type of a day," Sandberg said, explaining the early move to the bench. "He came through in the clutch."
The Phillies scored four more runs in the sixth, including a solo home run from Marlon Byrd, to make it 13-8. Cody Asche, who made his first Opening Day start, hit a solo homer in the eighth to make it a four-run game.
The Phillies needed just six innings to score 10 runs Monday. They needed 81 games to score 10 runs in a game last season.
A big day Monday hardly means it will continue throughout the next six months. But it is a start, and an important one for a team that has heard a lot of criticism from not only fans and media, but knowledgeable scouts and front-office executives who watched it play this spring.
"There was a lot of stuff being said in the offseason," Howard said when asked if this game made a statement. "I'll leave that to you guys."
Rollins let his bat talk Monday. Sandberg benched him three games in Florida because of an issue he had with him during Spring Training. A report then surfaced that stated the Phillies would absolutely love to trade him as soon as possible.
Rollins hit just .173 (9-for-52) in the spring.
"It wasn't any different for me," Rollins said about Spring Training. "I just had three days off back-to-back-to-back. Other than that, it was a normal Spring Training, getting your work in, taking your ground balls, getting your swings, some controversy -- pretty normal stuff."
Rollins couldn't care less about the criticism. He has been in Philadelphia way too long to let those things bother him.
"Once you get outside the clubhouse, if you have a good game, they are going to love you, and if you have a bad game, eh, they might not love you so much," he said. "As long as the players in the clubhouse respect me -- and I respect them and care -- that's what it's all about. You have to have that mentality in this city. If you're soft, they'll wring you out. And my momma didn't raise me to be no soft dude."
Rollins hit the ball hard Monday. So did his teammates. They hope it is the start of something.