And So It Begins…

As first pitch neared at Wrigley Field tonight, I, like many other Phillies fans, took a deep breath as the Pedro Martinez era began on the road against the Chicago Cubs, praying the rotation reshuffle would turn out to be the right move.

In his first major league outing in 10 months, Pedro proved to be fairly effective, going five innings, allowing seven hits, one walk, and striking out five as the Phillies cruised to a 12-5 victory over the Cubs. His first strikeout in a Phillies uniform also gave him sole possession of the 13th place on the all-time strikeout list, passing Cardinals legend Bob Gibson.

In the first four innings, Pedro had good control on his pitches. Pitches called as balls still looked to nip the corners of the strike zone, while his fastball topped out at 93 miles an hour. While he and catcher Carlos Ruiz weren’t on the same page at times, it seemed to be only small issues for Pedro.

It looked like the wheels began to come off in the fifth inning. After reaching the 80-pitch mark, Pedro began to hang pitches, loading the bases with no outs. He escaped major damage, though, allowing only two runs in the fifth, finishing his night with 99 pitches and the win.

This final inning does provide some cause for concern. If he can only be effective for 80 pitches, what happens when a batters start fouling off breaking pitches and running up his pitch count? Sure, not allowing a run is great, but if Pedro can only go four innings the bullpen gets killed, even in a win. Some advice for the Phils: keep Jamie Moyer stretched out for the time being; the jury is still out on Pedro.

Also, keep in mind that Pedro won’t benefit from this kind of offensive explosion every time out. And, despite sitting second in the NL Central, the Cubs are a light-hitting team, with only one starter in last night’s lineup hitting over .300 for the season, and that was part-timer Jake Fox.

Here are a few final notes about tonight’s 12-5 victory:

-Jimmy Rollins has a hit in 14 of his last 15 games.

-Raul Ibanez’s three-run home run got him out of an 0-14 slump.

-Shane Victorino was hit by a beer while catching a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. While no one was hurt on the play and the fan was apprehended, this is another perfect opportunity to remind fans to watch the game, not be a part of it.

-The Phils look to sweep this series from the Cubbies this afternoon. Cliff Lee will be on the mound for the Phils while Ryan Dempster goes for the Cubs.

-Tom Hagan ’11

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