Phillies-Astros Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies’ offense shows no signs of slowing

down. That could be bad news for the Houston Astros, especially

when they have to step in the batter’s box against ace Roy

Halladay.

Off to its best start in 17 years, Philadelphia goes for the

three-game sweep Sunday at Minute Maid Park, where Halladay makes

his first career appearance against a Houston team off to its worst

start since 1983.

Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino each drove in

three runs and led Philadelphia’s 11-hit attack in a 9-6 win

Saturday. The Phillies, who are 4-1 for the first time since

opening 8-1 in 1993, are averaging 8.2 runs and batting .337.

Philadelphia has 10 or more hits in each of its first five

games, the first time the club has done that since 1926.

“It just seems like every time you come up, there’s a guy in

scoring position,” said Howard, who hit his third homer Saturday

and has two hits in each of the first five games. “It’s

contagious.”

With the Phillies leading the NL with 41 runs, Halladay could

get plenty of support in the series finale.

He did in his NL debut, Monday’s season-opening 11-1 victory at

Washington. Halladay allowed one run, six hits and struck out nine

over seven innings.

“It’s been fun for me,” said Halladay, who was acquired from the

Blue Jays in December and is one victory shy of 150. “Nothing

against Toronto, but it kind of gives you renewed energy coming

over here. It’s a team that wants to win and can win.”

The Astros do too, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Saturday’s loss dropped Houston to 0-5 for the first time since

an 0-9 start 27 years ago. A .223 team batting average has played a

major role in the slow start, but first-year manager Brad Mills

sees progress from his club after Jason Michaels and Hunter Pence

hit the team’s first two home runs of the season.

The five third-inning runs was one fewer than Houston had scored

in its first four games combined.

“It was a big step forward,” Mills said. “It was nice to see

them put together some solid at-bats again and start scoring some

runs.”

Houston ace Roy Oswalt (0-1, 4.50 ERA) would like to see more of

that too. The right-hander looks to end the Astros’ skid in his

first start since Monday’s 5-2 season-opening loss to San

Francisco.

After getting an injection in his back to reduce pain from a

tight left hamstring, Oswalt yielded three runs and seven hits over

six innings in his eighth straight opening-day start. Both runs

Oswalt allowed during his 87-pitch outing crossed in the second

inning.

“In the second inning, I got out of sync a little bit,” he

said. “But I fell back in after that. I think I did OK. If you take

one inning out of the performance tonight, I think it was all

right. Once I got to the third, fourth and fifth, I felt a little

better, mechanical-wise.”

Oswalt is 5-1 with a 3.34 ERA in nine career starts versus

Philadelphia, but he has not enjoyed much success in his career

against Howard. The 2006 NL MVP is 8 for 19 with two homers

lifetime against Oswalt.

Philadelphia’s Placido Polanco has 10 hits in 21 career at-bats

versus Oswalt. The Phillies’ new third baseman has had multiple

hits every game this season, and is batting .542.