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April 6, 2012

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Phillies spoil Bedard’s solid debut

April 3, 2012 7:00 a.m. PITTSBURGH — It was an encouraging start.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ led off their first offensive inning of 2012 with back-to-back singles off Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay.

After that, though, Halladay was ... well ... Halladay.

The Phillies’ ace pitched eight innings and didn’t allow another base hit — retiring 26 of the next 28 batters in order — while leading the Phils to a 1-0 victory over the Pirates on Thursday at PNC Park.

“It’s not a great way to start the game, but we got out of it,” said Halladay.

Pirates’ outfielder Alex Presley was facing a 2-2 count when he hit a line drive to center, igniting the 39,585

fans at PNC Park — the largest crowd ever at the field.

Jose Tabata followed that hit up by tip-toeing a grounder up the third base line to put two aboard.

But then Andrew McCutchen hit the first pitch he saw into a double play. And Neil Walker flew out to left field to end the inning.

That was the start of nine straight batters retired by Halladay. The streak was interrupted in the fourth inning when he pegged McCutchen in the back. Then Halladay retired 13 straight before plunking Clint Barmes with two outs in the eighth.

It was a relatively wild outing for Halladay, who hit just four batters all last season.

Yet, he got the third out in the eighth — his final batter of the afternoon — by fanning Nate McLouth, who entered the game in a pinch hit role.

Halladay finished the game with five Ks total.

“After (the first two hits) I felt like we made good pitches,” Halladay said. “Later on in the game I felt that there was a couple that I got away with, that went our way or they didn’t swing at them. It’s just the way the game goes.

“Other teams, they’re going to come out in the first inning and try to be aggressive and try to get you down early. So, you come up fighting.”

Jonathan Papelbon then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth in his first game as the Phillies’ closer, notching one strikeout.

“Papelbon came in and did a nice job,” Halladay said, “got his feet wet and got that out of the way.”

Halladay said that he didn’t mind the decision by manager Charlie Manuel to let the team’s new closer finish things off.

“I understand at this point,” he said. “A couple weeks from now, I’m going to fight him.”

The Phillies got all the offense they would need in the seventh inning.

Former Colorado Rockie Ty Wigginton hit a one-out single to center. Then John Mayberry — who was 2-for-4 on the day — punched a double into the right field corner, putting Wigginton on third.

Carlos Ruiz — who already had two singles in the game — then lifted a fly ball to right field. Tabata caught it and made the throw to home, but Wigginton beat it by a step to put the Phillies in front.

“It was a big at-bat for me and my team,” said Ruiz, who was 3-for-3 in the game. “You know, putting the ball in play right there was big. (Erik Bedard) was pitching great (on Thursday), so I’m happy.”

Bedard indeed had a nice game as the Pirates’ Opening Day starter. He pitched seven innings and allowed six hits and one walk and struck out four.  

“(Bedard) pitched a very good ball game,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “(He threw) 21 of 26 first-pitch strikes, or something close to that. Nothing was squared up extremely hard at all. He was very efficient. Just a very good ball game.”

Chris Resop pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out a pair. And Juan Cruz allowed a single and struck out two batters in the ninth.

Notes: Thursday’s game was the start of the Pirates’ 126th season of professional baseball in the National League ... The loss was the Pirates’ first in a season opener since 2006. They had won five straight before Thursday. ... This was the 10th consecutive opening day start for Halladay. Only three other players have more — Robin Roberts and Tom Seaver both had opening-day starts 12 years in a row. Jack Morris owns the record with 14. He did it while pitching for Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. ... Philadelphia usually struggles at PNC Park. The Phillies were 13-22 at PNC going into yesterday’s game, the franchise’s worst record among all National League ballparks. The Phillies have won just 2 of 11 series at PNC.

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