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Phillies Beat Astros in Cliff Lee's Return to Philadelphia

It’s pretty special having a guy like Cliff Lee not as your opening day starter. In Lee’s first start as a Phillie since the World Series against the Yankees, it was like he never left. 7 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs, no walks, and 11 beautiful strikeouts using his full arsenal of pitches to paint around Astros hitters all night. Only Carlos Lee could get anything going — El Caballo went 3-4 with a triple and a home run, knocking in all four Astros runs — and the Phils won their second game of the season 9-4.

The Phillies lineup was much improved from Opening Day, scoring nine runs on fourteen hits off Astros pitching. Raul Ibanez was the most impressive, getting on base four of five times with a single, double, and two walks. He led the two through six hitters who went a combined 11-23 for the night. Though the Phils are still without a home run for the year, they took a much more patient approach at the plate and it benefited them big time. Wandy Rodriguez was out by the 5th inning and hard hit balls were leaving the infield all night.

A bit of bad news came in the 5th when Shane Victorino was pulled from the game after injuring his calf. The same injury Jimmy Rollins had that kept him out much of last season and the same calf that sidelined Victorino in ‘09. Nothing substantial has come out yet about the severity, but we’ll update you as news flows in. John Mayberry came in for Shane and will take over right field with Francisco moving to center if Shane is out for a significant period of time.

Danys Baez come on for the second night in a row and gave up an unearned run after Placido Polanco made a poor throw on an Angel Sanchez ground ball. Jose Contreras let two men on, but struck out former Phillies Jason Michaels and Michael Bourn to end the game.

With the Mets’ extra innings win over the Marlins (after K-Rod blew a save in the 9th – ha!), it has taken just two games for the Phillies to assume sole possession of first place in the NL East with a 2-0 record to kick off the 2011 campaign. Never too early to gloat.