Phillies and Astros Kick Off the 2011 Season

When we last left our heroes, the slugger was standing at home plate, bat at his side, shoulders slumped. The crowd, which didn't breath a single breathe since the seventh inning, let out a collective sigh of disappointment, the metaphorical wind removed from their sales as the other guys celebrated on the mound.

It was five months ago, but it may as well have been a lifetime since the Phillies last stood on the field and played some meaningful baseball.

That drought will end today, when Roy Halladay leads the Phils as they square off against the Houston Astros, in what will be a bit of a grudge match for the clubs.

Last season, the Phillies swept the 'Stros in Houston during the first week of the season, in a series that was capped off by a complete game gem from Roy Halladay, whose opponent that day was current Phillie Roy Oswalt.

The Astros got their revenge later in the season, when they swept the Phillies in a four game set in Philadelphia that can best be described as “ugly,” as the Phils tallied only seven runs, got beat by former Phillies Brett Myers and J.A. Happ, lost an ugly extra inning battle that saw former Astro Roy Oswalt play left field, while ending the series down three games in the division.

In other words, the Phillies are due for some revenge.

They'll have more than enough opportunity with Halladay on the hill, who won his second Cy Young in 2010 with the club, thanks to a stellar campaign that saw the right-hander post a 2.44 ERA to go along with 21 wins in his first season as a Phillie.

He will be opposed by Brett Myers, the man who toed the rubber on Opening Day for the Phillies from 2007 to 2009. Myers is the recent recipient of a two-year contract extension following a superb 2010 with the Astros, where he netted a career best in innings pitched (232.2) and ERA (3.14).

On the other side of the ball, the Phillies will be sending out a lineup that is much different than the one that most envisioned when spring training started, where visions of Chase Utley and Domonic Brown were replaced by the reality of Wilson Valdez and Ben Francisco. It's not going to be what the fans are used to seeing, but with the likes of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz holding down the fort, it will more than suffice.

Similarly, the Astros will be sporting a look different than in years past. No longer will lifers Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman be taking the field to kick off the season. This time, the elder statesmen are Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Michael Bourn. It's not a terribly dangerous lineup, but it's comprised of most of the guys who did a number on the Phils last August.

Although the Phillies and Astros might have wildly different expectations for their respective seasons, and even though this isn't your typical marquee matching to kick off the season, there is more than enough history between these two clubs to make for a more than worthy matchup to kick off 2011.

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