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Must C Clutch: Mayberry wins it for the Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins has had more memorable Opening Days at Citizens Bank Park, but none of them ended like this.

None of them started like this, either.

The Phillies opened their 2011 season Friday against the Astros with World Series-or-bust expectations. They have had high expectations before, but nothing like this. They have assembled one of the greatest starting rotations in baseball history -- on paper, anyway -- and because of that, they have been heavy favorites to win their third National League championship in four seasons.

Fans have been anticipating a 100-win season since Cliff Lee arrived back in December. Rollins even said in February the Phillies could chase Seattle's single-season win record of 116.

But while the afternoon started with dreams of championship rings and a parade down Broad Street, it ended with a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning -- capped by John Mayberry Jr.'s bases-loaded single to center field -- to beat the Astros, 5-4, after a painfully slow start.

"That was just desire to win," said Rollins, who ignited the rally with a leadoff single. "No one wanted to make that last out."

If Friday showed anything, it showed nothing comes easy, not even for a team that has Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in the rotation.

The Phillies still have to hit.

They still have to play defense.

They still have to get outs from the bullpen.

"Games like today's go to show you we're going to have to win as a team all year," said Halladay, who allowed five hits and one run with six strikeouts in six innings. "As much as they talk about our pitching, we're going to have to play as a team if we want to achieve our goals. This was a good example of that."

"I think everyone personally felt Roy didn't deserve to get a loss after a performance like that," Rollins said.

The Phillies had showed little offensively through eight innings, but with Astros closer Brandon Lyon on the mound, everything changed. Rollins and Ryan Howard started the ninth inning with back-to-back singles. Rollins stole third with one out, and had hoped Howard might steal second on the same play to allow a single to tie the game, but Howard stayed put.

"I didn't get the memo," Howard said.

Ben Francisco, who replaces Jayson Werth this season in right field, followed with a single to score Rollins and cut the deficit to 4-3. Carlos Ruiz then singled to left field to load the bases. Wilson Valdez, who has been playing in place of Chase Utley at second base, followed with a single to left field to score Howard and tie the game.

Mayberry stepped into the batter's box. He had just made his first Opening Day roster, and this was his chance to make a splash.

Mayberry drilled a 2-2 fastball to center field to win the game.

"Basically, I just saw the momentum continue to build," Mayberry said.

It took seven batters, six singles and three runs in the ninth to earn the win. It was the Phillies' first walk-off victory on Opening Day since April 6, 1974, when Mike Schmidt hit a two-run home run against Tug McGraw to beat the Mets at Veterans Stadium.

"It's one of those things you dream about as a kid, getting a walk-off hit," Mayberry said. "This is the script I would write."

It would not have been the end of the world had the Phillies lost Friday. They do have Lee pitching Saturday night. They do have 161 games to play.

But this is Philadelphia.

Have we mentioned the expectations?

"We had a couple fans jumping on us right on top of our dugout," Rollins said with a smile. "It was kind of comical. They were talking about American Legion ball, and how his team would have done better than that. I don't know. Maybe it inspired us. The next thing you know, we came out and we only made one out and found a way to win. [A loss] wouldn't have been received well, especially with Roy on the mound."

Only 99 more to go, or 115 if they still plan on chasing the Mariners.

But it won't be easy. They know that.

"When you look at our pitching, I think we're going to be in some games," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think we've got a chance to be in a lot of games. If we can score some runs, we've got a chance to be very good." Comments