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Phillies crush St. Louis in series opener

Phillies right fielder Pence swings for a two run RBI against the Cardinals in the eighth inning of Game 1 of their MLB National League Divi
Phillies right fielder Pence swings for a two run RBI against the Cardinals in the eighth inning of Game 1 of their MLB National League Divi

(Reuters) - Philadelphia launched their Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs campaign in emphatic fashion on Saturday, coming from behind to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-6 in the opening game of their National League division series.

The Cardinals, who snuck into the playoffs after overhauling the Atlanta Braves on the last day of the regular season to grab the NL wild card, briefly threatened an upset when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead after a first inning home run from Lance Berkman.

But the Phillies, who posted the best record of any MLB team during the regular season, scored a run in the fourth inning before snatching the lead in the sixth when slugger Ryan Howard blasted a monster three-run homer and Raul Ibanez added a two-run shot.

The Phillies added another five runs in the seventh and eighth innings, then gave up three at the top of the ninth, but always had plenty in reserve to confirm their status as the favorites to win the World Series.

The second game in the best-of-five series against the Cardinals will again be in Philadelphia, Sunday.

Philadelphia starting pitcher Roy Halladay conceded a three-run homer to Berkman in the first inning but immediately regained his control and did not give up another run in eight innings nor a hit after the second inning.

The game turned in the sixth when Howard smashed Kyle Lohse over center-field with two runners on base then Ibanez knocked one over the wall with a runner on base.

Skip Schumaker added a two-run single in the Cardinals' ninth inning rally but it was too little too late.

(Writing by Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Mark-Lamport Stokes)

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