Phillies pitcher goes yard twice in win over Expos
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
Robert Person takes a curtain call after his second homer of the day Sunday. (Brad C. Bower/AP)
PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Larry Bowa shuffled his starting lineup before Saturday's game in an effort to generate more offense. All he had to do was wait until Sunday, when Robert Person returned from the disabled list.
"It was the Robert Person show," he said. "I didn't know what to do with all those runs."
The right-hander smacked two home runs -- a granny and a three-run shot -- and drove in seven runs in an 18-3 rout of the Expos Sunday.
Oh yeah, and he pitched too, allowing one run in five innings for his first win of the season. That left Toronto's Chris Carpenter (0-1 and on the DL) and Houston's Wade Miller (0-2 and just back from the DL) as the remaining Opening Day starters without a win this season.
Person survived a shaky first inning -- which he attributed to nerves -- in which he walked the first two batters. Brad Wilkerson, a day after turning 25, was caught stealing second ahead of the walk to Jose Vidro. Person then got Vladimir Guerrero to ground into a force out at second and struck out Troy O'Leary.
Robert Person's grand slam was the Phillie' first granny of the season. The last Phillies pitcher to hit a grand slam was Jeff Juden Aug. 25, 1995 vs. Los Angeles. It was the 13th slam by a Phillies pitcher.
The home run was the first extra-base hit by a Phillie with the bases loaded this season.
Person had been 0-for-10 this season and .124 for his career, entering the at-bat.
Randy Learch was the last Phillies pitcher to hit two homers in a game, Sept. 30, 1978 at Pittsburgh. Person became the sixth pitcher in Phillies history to hit two homers in a game. (Rick Wise did it twice).
Person's seven RBIs is a single-game record for a Phillies pitcher. The last Phillie to have seven RBI was Rico Brogna, Aug. 25, 1999 vs. San Digeo.
"I've been there before, but I just knew I had to find a way to get the ball down," Person said.
That would be his only jam of the afternoon, as his teammates pounded on Expos starter Britt Reames for 10 first-inning runs, more runs than the Phillies have scored in any game this season. Pat Burrell clocked a three-run job to left to score Marlon Anderson and Bobby Abreu, who doubled and walked around a Scott Rolen flyout. Reames left two batters later after walking Jeremy Giambi and Travis Lee.
Enter former Phillies teammate Bruce Chen, who induced Tomas Perez to pop out, then -- on orders from Expos manager Frank Robinson -- issued an intentional walk to catcher Todd Pratt to get to Person.
"He suspended me last year," Person said of last year's league disciplinarian.
As for Chen, Person said the two discussed "what he would throw me. He said I wouldn't be able to hit this outside pitch, and I'm like 'OK.' But that wasn't an outside pitch. It was right in my zone. I'm a pull hitter."
The slugger, with two career home runs entering the game, worked the count to 3-0 the next time he faced Chen, took a strike (Person had the red light) and walked. He came to the plate in the third inning -- after a second walk to Pratt loaded the bases -- and missed a second slam by about 15 feet.
"I knew it was going foul," he said. Person would eventually strike out. "I stranded three runners there."
He would get another chance in his final at-bat Sunday, clocking a 1-2 pitch from Masato Yoshii deeper than his slam. He answered a second curtain call from the crowd of 19,223 and ended his day.
"Normally, I got to beg to get up again," said Person, who called himself a "20-homer guy" if he played every day. "Though this home run might be my last one."
Teammates watching Person's trot around the bases after either homer couldn't look away. Describing the gait of the returning starting pitcher was tougher.
"A trot, that's definitely using the term loosely," said Doug Glanville. "Crawl is more like it. "Hey, if a pitcher does that, there's got to be a little leeway of understanding that he's gotta soak it up. You couldn't have written it any better than that.
"He was Roy Hobbs today. He did it all."
"Did it hurt?" asked Pat Burrell. "All those pitchers are overconfident in their ability to hit. It makes us laugh. These guys take so much pride in their at-bats."
"They said I had my chest out a few times, spread eagle once," said Person. "It wasn't as bad as last year."
While his bat became the topic of the day -- one that earned him $100 from Bowa, when they bet he wouldn't homer this season -- Person's right elbow is more important.
The right-hander went on the disabled list April 29 with tendinitis, aggravated in a start in San Francisco. He spent 28 days on the DL, and made two rehab starts for Triple-A Scranton. Coming into the start, he said he felt better than he had in a while, as he also battled a strained rib cage muscle in Spring Training and early in the season. He struggled in April, going 0-3 with a 5.45 ERA, then missed all of May.
The totals today -- an unearned run allowed on three hits and four walks, with five strikeouts in an 86-pitch outing -- was exactly what Bowa wanted to see from last season's ace.
"I think Robert threw real well," said catcher Todd Pratt. "He hit spots. We didn't use combinations that we would have if the game was on the line, but we tried to mix in some of his splits and some curveballs. It was a great day and we provided what he really needed for his first day back."
Person's value to the team, which he may tell you is his finely sanded lumber, is his right arm and the balls that come from it.
"Behind every good team is two and sometimes three quality starting pitchers that go out there and give you innings and pitch deep into games," said reliever Dan Plesac, who spent time with Person with the Blue Jays. "I mean it's no secret that the teams that are successful ... You win and lose with starting pitching."
"We need him," added Burrell.
The 32-year-old will only get to pitch next time, in his start against Detroit this weekend. In an American League city, Bowa will use a designated hitter, and it won't be Person.
That doesn't mean he'll stop bringing up the day.
"We know it's Person, so we'll be watching the video for the next six months, and we'll be watching it before every game," said Glanville. "He'll probably lobby to DH in Interleague play. We're going to have all kinds of problems. He'll bring it up for quite some time. It won't end, actually."
Glanville knows Person too well, as the pitcher confirmed his plans to dub copies of his performance, though eventually he will get back to normalcy.
"Everything lined up right," Person said. "It was a crazy day. I'm starting on my way back down to earth, but it might take a while."
Ken Mandel covers the Phillies for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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