Phils Riding High Into Houston for Oswalt and Pence's Homecoming

Phils Riding High Into Houston for Oswalt and Pence's Homecoming

A three-game sweep of the Braves. Three of four from the tough-to-beat-at-home Brewers. That's just how things are going for the Phillies lately. The 2011 regular season has been a pleasure for fans to watch. But before we get to see if they can use that momentum to translate into the most important three playoff series victories, we've got a couple of weeks of baseball left to see how this team can stack up historically with the best Phillies teams ever.

So while the end result of the final games isn't all that important, we are not without some interesting storylines.

With the Phillies kicking off a three-game set in Houston this evening against the lowly Astros, Roy Oswalt will make his first start as an opposing pitcher at Minute Maid Park. It will also be Hunter Pence's first game against the team that traded him just a few weeks ago.

But as Roy pointed out, the conditions under which both players departed were a bit different. After ten years in Houston, and the team's future looking bleak, Oswalt wanted a chance to win. Perhaps Astros fans (I'm assuming there are some die hards) could hold that against the affable pitcher, but I'd doubt it.

Pence being dealt, to me, always seemed like a strange move for the Astros. They both saved money and got some quality young talent in return. That is the goal of some teams.

Oswalt seems appreciative of the chance Houston first gave him.

"The team is a little bit different, but it’s still Houston,” Oswalt said. "They gave me a chance coming out of junior college to play, so it’s kind of special to go back."

And then he tells it like it is.

"The good thing is I think there’ll probably be just as many Phillies fans there in Houston,” Oswalt said. “So hopefully I won’t get booed too much."

As for Hunter Pence, he isn't trying to make a big deal about the homecoming of sorts, but adds that he was beloved in Houston for pretty much the same reason he's been such a hit in Philly.

I think the reason I was appreciated so much by the fans was the way I played on the field,” he said. “I'm going to give you everything I've got. I'm going to continue to do that. I'm grateful for the opportunity I had there in Houston and I'm just going to go enjoy it.”

8:05 start from Houston tonight.

>>Oswalt, Pence return to Minute Maid tonight with Phillies [Houston Chronicle]

>>Oswalt, Pence will have homecoming in Houston [Courier Post]


As for the historic stuff I eluded to in the beginning of the post, Matt Gelb has some fun numbers to look at, if you're into that sort of thing. Statistically speaking, this really is the best Phillies team ever.


Also of interest: Brett Myers is starting tonight for the Astros. I kinda miss that guy. Not his pitching per se, just his redneck attitude.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).