Phils pound Nats in Doc's sharp debut
Ace fans nine, Polanco nets six RBIs, Howard homers
WASHINGTON -- Remove the pageantry and the anticipation, and Opening Day is one day in a punishing six-month, 162-game season.
Maybe Monday should be treated as such.
Maybe the enthusiasm should be tempered a bit.
But that would defeat the purpose, wouldn't it? Opening Day is a day to consider the possibilities, and the Phillies enjoyed a convincing 11-1 victory over the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Roy Halladay dominated in one of the most highly anticipated regular-season starts in franchise history.
Placido Polanco, the team's new third baseman and two-hole hitter, hit a grand slam on his way to a career-high six RBIs. Jimmy Rollins, who had the worst first half of his career in 2009, got off to a good start, picking up two hits and two walks.
The Phillies looked like a team ready to win another World Series.
"It was a beautiful day for baseball," Rollins said. "[This was] a great way to get the season started -- no question about that."
It started with clear skies and 78 degrees. It continued with a pregame visit in the clubhouse with President Barack Obama, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"I had a little conversation with him about sending him a memo," Rollins said. "We have a little basketball challenge, and I'm waiting on my call. I sent the memo, but I guess he missed when school was supposed to start this offseason. Hopefully in the future, he'll ring me. He said he's going to post me up, but I told him that I'm too quick for him."
Obama's pitch reached the plate, but it was out of the strike zone.
Halladay had markedly better control.
He allowed two hits, one run and one walk in the first inning, but he had no problems after that. He allowed six hits, one run and two walks in seven innings. He struck out nine.
"It's fun for me," Halladay said. "You feel like you're just out there chipping in the way these guys go about their business. You're just trying to just fill in a role."
Halladay filled the role of ace quite nicely.
A lineup that features seven former All-Stars took care of the rest.
Nationals left-hander John Lannan cruised through three innings before everything fell apart in the fourth. Lannan walked Chase Utley to start the inning, and Ryan Howard hit a first-pitch curveball for a two-run home run to right field to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
Howard saw more breaking balls than any other hitter in baseball last season. He is expected to see many more this year, too.
Monday was a good start.
"There's the pitcher's breaking balls, and then there's breaking balls for strikes," Howard said. "[I] just try to lay off the ones they try to get me to chase and just hit the ones that are over the plate."
Lannan faced eight more hitters in the fourth, including a swinging bunt single from Halladay that scored a run, before he left the game. Five runs scored as the Phillies took a 5-1 lead.
"Philly is a tough team to stop once they get the momentum," Lannan said. "The momentum kept on going, and I couldn't stop it."
It continued from there. Reliever Miguel Batista loaded the bases in the seventh and Jason Bergmann took over to face Polanco, who hit the second grand slam of his career.
"I've been watching Polly all spring, and he just puts together great at-bats," Howard said. "He's just a hitting machine."
Halladay and Polanco were the team's two biggest offseason acquisitions: The ace and the two-hole hitter.
"They just add," Rollins said of the team's nucleus. "You can always use help, no matter how good you were the year before. Adding a guy like Roy Halladay is no doubt one of the biggest moves we've made since I've been here. And then adding balance in the lineup with a guy like Polanco, not just a right-handed batter, but a guy that can move the ball around."
The Phillies won three consecutive National League East championships, back-to-back NL pennants and the 2008 World Series after losing on Opening Day. Monday was just one day and it guarantees nothing.
But tell that to the thousands of Phils fans who made the trek to the nation's capital Monday.
Tell that to the players in the clubhouse, who could imagine the possibilities.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.