Phillies bounce back, pound Astros
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In a comical yet unplanned moment that summed their performance to date, the stadium announcer opened Saturday's game by introducing the "Clearwater Phillies."
In fairness, a 1-8-1 record could lead one to wonder ... and the Philadelphia Phillies didn't offer much of a counter against Houston's second unit Cody Asche and Carlos Ruiz blasted three-run homers against minor league pitchers in the fifth and sixth innings of the Phillies' second win, 11-3. The runs represented a spring high.
Asche, of course, spent most of 2012 with the Clearwater Threshers.
Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez struggled through 3 1/3 innings, walking four but relying on four strikeouts to limit the Astros to one run.
Reliever Kevin Munson followed and walked three. Twice the Phillies made in-inning pitching changes, a rarity in March.
Top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle chipped in as well, walking one and allowing two hits and two runs as the Astros erased the lead Asche provided.
The Phillies' offense was more predictable against starter Dallas Keuchel, who held them hitless through three innings.
The Phillies came into the game batting a collective .189.
By the time Ruiz collected their first hit with a single in the fifth inning, it had dropped to .181.
The Phillies regained the lead in the sixth against Collin McHugh and Jason Stoffel, both of whom spent most of last season in the Triple A Pacific Coast League.
Ryan Howard doubled, moved to third on Marlon Byrd's single and scored on Darin's Ruf's single. Ruiz followed with a three-run shot toward the tiki bar in left field to make it 7-3.
Howard had a chance to add to it in the seventh, but he struck out looking with the bases loaded. Howard struck out three times Saturday, pushing his spring total to nine.
John Mayberry continued his torrid spring, however, following with a three-run double to right center for a 10-3 lead.
The Phillies had some fun off the field, too. The day started with alumni signing autographs for fans. Former players Greg Luzinski and Robert Person then provoked some of the loudest cheers. Luzinski rode with the Phanatic and shot hot dogs into the stands, and Person played the banjo with the mascot in the eighth.
Jeff Manship is scheduled to start for the Phillies Sunday in Fort Myers against the Minnesota Twins.