Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hamels Shuts Down Braves

In the ninth inning: With Jeff Franceour on first, Mark Teixeira hit a ball which put Jimmy Rollins on his back. Rollins then threw Franceour out at second base from his back, and Utley fired the ball to first to get Teixeira. Cole Hamels then struck out Brian McCann to end the game and prove exactly why he is the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies as he threw a complete game shutout and the Phillies won 5-0.

Hamels allowed only four hits and struck out six in his first career complete game shutout. Hamels also helped himself out by getting two hits, though he almost didn't need to as the Phillies offense was productive. Pedro Feliz, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino all hit home runs and Atlanta starter Chuck James only pitched four innings.

This is the kind of game that this team needs from their ace given the inconsistency of the rest of the rotation. There's not a whole lot to say except that Hamels simply looked fantastic. He had good defense around him, he struck out six batters and looked dominating doing so, and no one on the Braves was able to get anything started off him. It probably helped Hamels to be facing a lineup without Chipper Jones, and even Mark Kotsay was taken out of the lineup early, but even with Jones in the lineup, maybe the Braves would have scored one run and in the end it wouldn't have mattered.

The offense continues to produce and it's looking like Ryan Howard and Pedro Feliz are hitting better. Hopefully, Shane Victorino's first home run of the year is a sign of good things to come in the near future, because right now he has put a hole in the two-spot. Victorino was actually more productive as a leadoff hitter than batting second. Not that it makes sense for Rollins or Victorino to be hitting in different places, but If Victorino has trouble performing as a two-hitter, it will eventually raise some questions. More likely than not he'll pick up his performance, and if everyone else around him produces consistently it may not matter. His home run tonight was encouraging, though there could have easily been a few more runs scored, not just in this game but through this three game series with the Braves, were it not for his lack of production where he is in the batting order.

Taking two of three from the Braves was extremely important for the Phillies at this point in the season. Once everyone in that offense becomes an evident threat, which should happen in the coming month, the Phillies won't have to re-establish themselves as a dominant force in the division. They've already proven that they plan to keep and are capable of keeping the division title that the Braves have missed in the past couple years.

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