Oswalt Caps Off Sweep of Astros, Fantastic First Weekend at Citizens Bank Park

Oswalt Caps Off Sweep of Astros, Fantastic First Weekend at Citizens Bank Park

All winter long we dream about baseball
returning to Citizens Bank Park. The past three days in South Philly
were a perfect example as to why we miss it so damn much. Not only did
season ticket holders get a chance to reacquaint themselves with the
friendly faces in their sections they hadn't seen since last year, but
they were also treated to three days of baseball featuring Roy Halladay,
Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt on the mound -- and, most importantly, three
Phillies victories.

Friday thrilled us with a walkoff, Saturday provided a handful of opportunities to tell Cliff Lee in person
what we've been thinking for the past three months, and Sunday
afternoon featured Ryan Howard ringing the bell in Ashburn Alley for the
first of hopefully many times this season. Oh, and the sun even popped
out for a few innings on Sunday to warm part of the record-setting
132,254 fans who came out to the ballpark this weekend.

The three-game sweep at the hands of the Astros featured the guys
we've seen get it done in the past -- Roy, Ryan, Jimmy -- doing what we
know they're very capable of, but also some of the fresher faces --
Mayberry, Francisco, Martinez (No, not Pedro) -- contributing in some
fashion straight from the get-go.

Phillies fans couldn't have really hoped for more from their club in
their opening weekend, and Charlie Manuel believes the veterans playing
to their potential, mixed with a number of new guys stepping up, is the
formula for success for this team going forward.

"If Jimmy Rollins just has the kind of season that he's definitely
capable of having, just his good average season, Victorino has his
average season, Howard does what he can do, we're gonna have some
offense there," Charlie said after Sunday's 7-3 win over Houston.

One of the key contributors in the final win of the series was Ben
Francisco, who was 3-5 on the day with two runs scored to go along with
his first home run of the season. Francisco has stepped into the large
shoes left behind by Jayson Werth and performed fantastically in his
first three starts as the Phillies everyday right fielder.

"Francisco can swing the bat," Manuel said. "I used to say that last
year. He has a chance to be a real good hitter. He can get on the
fastball and he'll make adjustments at the plate. I feel like he can
hit."

"I like our bench," Manuel continued. "We can do some things with our
bench. Mayberry is an improved player. Gload gives you a solid,
professional at-bat just about every time he goes up there. We got some
guys sitting there that can certainly hit and play in situations."

Manuel is impressed with Benny's bat, but Francisco also made a wild
catch against the wall on Sunday that Ryan Howard called "exciting to
watch."

"I don't think he heard me, I was trying to say 'wall!'," Howard told us after the game.

Francisco apparently did not hear Howard yell at him, nor did he
really notice the warning track dirt under his feat, because he ran into
the wall so hard it knocked the "SD" for the Padres out of the
scoreboard.

"The wall is kind of in the sun, you're not worried about the wall.
You're just trying to catch the ball," Francisco said of his catch.

Tell that to Bobby Abreu.

Francisco putting his body on the line to try and get the win and the sweep is the kind of play Phillies fans appreciate. Benny knows it.

"Winning is the name of the game and we won all three. Can't ask for
anything more," Francisco said of the opening weekend in Philly.

Three straight wins at home to start the season is pretty damn
exciting -- and rare. It hasn't been done in Philly since 1970. And it
hasn't been done as a three-game sweep of the same team in Philly since
1899. That's a long ass time ago, if you didn't have your calendar
handy.

"Hopefully we can ride this through this month and get off to a head start," Sunday's winning pitcher Roy Oswalt said.

"First two guys come out and throw unbelievable. You don't want to be
the odd man out," Oswalt said of having to follow Halladay and Lee this
weekend.

With Cole Hamels pitching on Tuesday against the New York Mets, he now has to follow three great starts.

I'm sure Cole doesn't want to be the odd man out either.

So who's ready for the Mets? The Phillies certainly are.

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 78, Providence 68

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Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 78, Providence 68

BOX SCORE

Seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins combined for 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and No. 1 Villanova held off Providence, 78-68, in a Big East game at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday afternoon.
 
Villanova extended a four-point halftime lead to as much as 20 points before hot-shooting Providence closed to within nine with five minutes left. Villanova then went on a 13-3 run to put the game out of reach.
 
Hart had 25 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Wildcats, and Jenkins added 19 points, four boards and four assists. Both shot over 50 percent.
 
Sophomore Mikal Bridges scored 15 points, matching his Big East career high, and also had three rebounds and three assists, and Jalen Brunson contributed 13 points to go with three rebounds and four assists.
 
Providence stayed in the game by shooting 13 for 26 from three against the No. 3 three-point shooting defense in Division 1.
 
What it means
Villanova improved to 19-1 overall and 7-1 and in first place in the Big East. The Wildcats have won five in a row since losing at Butler on Jan. 4.
 
Providence fell to 13-8 and 3-5 in the conference and 1-6 on the road. The Friars have lost six of eight since an 11-2 start.
 
Villanova is now 47-34 all-time at the Wells Fargo Center but 14-2 in its last 16 games at the South Philly arena.
 
Stat of the day
Providence shot better from three (50 percent) than two (44 percent). The Friars made 13 threes and just nine two-pointers.

Turning point
Providence trailed by just four at halftime at 35-31, but Bridges opened the second half with a steal and fast-break reverse layup and a jumper from the top of the key to start an 8-0 run that gave Villanova a 12-point lead. The Friars never got any close than eight points the rest of the game.
 
By the numbers
• Providence’s 50 percent shooting from three is the highest against ‘Nova since North Carolina shot 65 percent in the national championship game on April 4 in Houston.

• Villanova’s bench scored just two points.

• Providence’s 13 threes are the most by a Big East team against Villanova since Doug McDermott and Creighton had 21 in a 28-point win three years ago this week.

• Rodney Bullock led Providence with 17 points (3 for 5 from three), Jalen Lindsey added 14 (4 for 7 from three) and Isaiah Jackson came off the bench to score 12 (3 for 3 from three).

• Darryl Reynolds' last two double-digit rebound games have both been against Providence.
 
What's next
Villanova travels to Milwaukee for a Tuesday night game against Marquette. The Golden Eagles are 12-6 overall and 3-3 in the Big East with a game later Saturday at Creighton.
 
Villanova has won nine straight games against Marquette, since the Golden Eagles — then ranked No. 17 — came back from 18 points down to win 82-78 at the Wells Fargo Center in January 2012.