Former Astros right fielder Hunter Pence received a standing ovation when taking the field in the top of the first and upon strolling to the plate in the second during his Philadelphia Phillies’ debut Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park against Pittsburgh.
The 28-year-old Pence, who was acquired by Philadelphia via trade the previous day, sported No. 3 on his Phillies’ jersey and hit in the No. 5 spot behind three-time All-Star slugger Ryan Howard and ahead of Raul Ibanez in manager Charlie Manuel’s lineup.
He cracked an RBI single to center in the bottom of the eighth to put the icing on the cake in Philadelphia’s 7-4 win, yet his presence in the lineup contributed to Howard’s stellar four-hit performance.
The Phillies improved to a major league-best 67-39 on the season to maintain a five-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
With Pence adding tremendous stability to the lineup, as well as extra protection hitting behind Howard, Philadelphia will move forward the remainder of the regular season as the perennial National League favorite to advance to the World Series.
The Phillies are built to succeed in the playoffs, especially with the starting pitching of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
Although Pence finds himself thrilled to be a member of the Phillies, he’ll forever have a big heart for the Astros and the city of Houston.
“It’s tough to really explain,” Pence said. “It’s very emotional, because I love these guys [the Astros]. I am going to miss them. I love them. That’s the bottom line. I am an emotional guy. We’ve gone through a lot together. This has been one of the toughest years and the most adversity I have ever been a part of.”
Whether it’s the Phillies or Astros, Pence wants the best for both teams and now looks forward to a new chapter in his career.
“We are all in this together,” Pence said. “I just want the best for everyone. I think, ultimately, that’s what this is going to end up being. I think every competitor at the highest level wants to be in a pennant race and win a World Series. I’m pretty lucky that I get to jump on board with one of the best teams and have an opportunity.
“Everyone is happy. I talked to Ed Wade. I thanked the Astros and Houston for all the support they have given me. I want to be able to give back as much as I can. When I look back on it, I know with my time in Houston, I played with everything I had. I learned a lot.”
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