Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hamels Shuts Out Reds

Cole Hamels entered the game on a cold streak, having surrendered thirteen earned runs in his last two starts. Meanwhile the rest of the Phillies rotation had stepped up, as both Adam Eaton and Brett Myers were coming off excellent starts. Not to be outdone, Hamels alleviated concerns that had arisen over the past two weeks and dominated the Reds, pitching a complete game shutout. The offense backed him up, in part thanks to some sloppy Reds fielding, and the Phillies came away with a 5-0 win.

The Philadelphia fans finally got their wish as Ken Griffey Jr. started the game in right field, batting third. However, he wasn't able to do much damage against Hamels, going 1 for 4 with a double. Griffey grounded out to end the first inning, in which Hamels had no trouble, retiring the Reds in order. But the second inning was a bit nerve-racking, as the Reds loaded the bases on a walk, a double, and an intentional walk to bring up the pitcher, Homer Bailey. Bailey failed to live up to his name and popped out to end the threat. After the second, Hamels went on cruise control, allowing only three Reds to reach base the rest of the way.

Bailey, in his first start of the season, handled the Phillies for the first two innings before running into a little trouble in the third. Carlos Ruiz singled with one out and Hamels sacrificed him to second. Jimmy Rollins hit a pop-up to shallow left field that bounced off the glove of Reds shortstop Paul Janish, allowing Ruiz to score and giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead. That would be Rollins' final contribution of the day, as Charlie Manuel benched him in the top of the fifth, frustrated that he did not run out the pop-up and as a result was only on first base. Eric Bruntlett would replace him. The next batter, Shane Victorino, popped up to shallow left and Janish made an impressive running grab to, at least partially, redeem himself for the error.

The Phillies offense would be held at bay again until the fifth inning, when poor defense got him into more trouble. Pedro Feliz started out the inning by beating out an infield single and then taking second on a throwing error by Bailey. Next Ruiz walked, but Hamels flied out to center and Bailey had a chance to get out of the jam. Bailey did his part, getting Bruntlett to hit a fly ball that was, at least momentarily, tracked by Griffey. However, Griffey lost it in the lights and it bounced off his glove and allowed Feliz to score. Victorino made it a 3-0 game with a single to right and Chase Utley hit a long, hard out to end the inning.

The Phillies would tack on two more runs. One on a Geoff Jenkins home run and another on a Ryan Howard RBI single. Those would be the only earned runs of the game for Bailey, who had a solid, if unlucky, outing, going 6 1/3 innings, but allowing five runs, thanks in part to three errors.

But there was zero margin for error today against Hamels, who now has a 3-0 record and 0.60 ERA in four career starts against the Reds. After the second inning, the closest the Reds came to scoring was in the ninth, when Griffey tattooed the ball to deep center. It looked like 600 off the bat, but it didn't quite have the distance and Victorino snared it with a leaping grab on the warning track. As Griffey walked back to the dugout, the Philadelphia crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Griffey's show moves on to Florida now, as the series wrapped up today, with the Phillies winning 3 of 4. While many of the fans came to see Griffey make history, it's hard to be disappointed after seeing four games of excellent baseball, including two one-run games, a near no-hitter for Myers, and Hamels' superb performance today.

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