Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hamels Dominates Perspective Trade Suitors

GAME RECAP: Phils Shock Cards 4-1

Phillies ace Cole Hamels is getting plenty of attention this season because of his availability in a trade. He showed Monday night in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium why he should have plenty of pursuers before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Hamels allowed four hits, one run, four walks and struck out nine in seven innings as he improved to 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA. "Cole really seemed to step it up a notch after he got the run support," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. Cards starter John Lackey opened the evening with six scoreless innings before being knocked around in a three-run seventh. He was staked to an early lead when Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday singled in succession with two outs in the third. However, lack of execution on Lackey's attempted sacrifice and Jon Jay's caught stealing on a botched hit-and-run thwarted a bigger inning for the Cards. "He's got good stuff," Jay said of Hamels. "Everyone talks about the changeup, but he's got a cutter, curveball and fastball, too, and [Carlos] Ruiz is a good catcher back there. He did a good job of mixing it up back there."

  • The Phillies entered the night averaging 2.58 runs per game, which were the fewest in baseball and fourth-lowest average by a team since 1900. They also had scored just three runs for Hamels in his first four starts this season. But they scored three runs for Hamels in the seventh, thanks to a hit-and-run and Ben Revere's ground-rule double, which dropped on the left-field line.
  • The Phillies announced after the game that right-hander Hector Neris has been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room for rookie right-hander Severino Gonzalez, who will make his big league debut Tuesday night.
  • Jonathan Papelbon picked up the 111th save of his Phillies career, putting him one shy of tying Jose Mesa for the franchise record. Ken Giles pitched a scoreless eighth. The Phillies have won 16 consecutive games when they have pitched in the same game.
  • "I don't think I'm going to address that. Sorry." -- Hamels, with a chuckle, when asked if he would welcome a trade to St. Louis. Hamels had just finished raving about pitching at Busch Stadium, and how the Cardinals always are one of the top teams in the National League Central.
  • Phillies second baseman Chase Utley enters the game with one of the lowest batting averages on balls in play in baseball (.096). He hopes to finally start catching a break this week against the Cardinals.

Phillies right-hander Severino Gonzalez makes his big league debut Tuesday night against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The Phillies hope the rookie can keep his cool against one of the best teams in the National League. Gonzalez, 22, is ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Phillies' No. 15 prospect. He went 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in three starts this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Right-hander Michael Wacha pitches for the Cardinals. He is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA this season.


Focusing On The Present – Cole Hamels has always been important to the Phillies, but he is quickly becoming more and more important in the rest of the baseball world. Hamels pitched Monday night in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. He allowed four hits, one run, four walks and struck out nine in seven innings to improve to 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA through five starts this season. Hamels' starts always receive a little extra attention because he is regarded as one of the best left-handers in baseball -- he has the third-best ERA in the Majors since June 1, 2014 -- but his start Monday received a little more attention because of his availability on the trade market and what is happening to starting pitching around baseball. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright ruptured his left Achilles over the weekend and will miss the rest of the season. Dodgers right-hander Brandon McCarthy has a torn UCL and will likely have season-ending Tommy John surgery. Tigers ace Justin Verlander has not thrown a baseball since April 15 because he has inflammation in his right triceps, although the Tigers said his condition has improved. And the Red Sox's rotation has a 5.84 ERA, which is the worst in baseball. Hamels said he is not paying attention to those things and how they might relate to him. "I'm living in the moment, and that's kind of all I can do," Hamels said. "In order to be accountable for what I have to do, I can't think in the future or the past. I've got to be here in the present." Hamels allowed a run in the third inning when he allowed three consecutive two-out singles to Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday. Hamels allowed a one-out double to Carpenter in the fifth, but he struck out Peralta and Matt Adams to end the inning. "He got them in big situations," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said about Hamels' strikeouts. The Phillies scored three runs for Hamels in the seventh. They had scored just three runs for him in his first four starts. The support helped him improve to 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA in eight career starts at Busch Stadium, including one start in the 2011 National League Division Series. He had faced Wainwright in two of those eight starts. "It's definitely unfortunate what happened to him," Hamels said about Wainwright. "I definitely feel for him. You don't ever want that, especially to a guy as great as he is personally and as a competitor for St. Louis." Hamels had high praise for St. Louis. "This is a great stadium," he said. "It's pure enjoyment to go out there. You know you're playing a great team every year. Every year I've pitched against them they're one of the top teams in the division. It shows with the World Series [titles] they have." So would Hamels welcome a trade to St. Louis, if the situation presented itself? "I don't think I'm going to address that. Sorry," he said, with a chuckle. Hamels is living in the moment. But if he continues to pitch well and starters around baseball continue to fall, his future could be decided soon.

Finally Some Support – In a bit of a shock, Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels found his way to the mound in the bottom of the seventh with a lead after the Phillies scored three runs for him in the top half of the inning on Monday night at Busch Stadium. The Phillies had scored just three runs for Hamels in his first four starts this season, which was the fourth-worst run support in baseball. "It really does energize anybody, because you want to hold the lead for your team," Hamels said after the 4-1 victory over the Cardinals. Cody Asche led off the inning with a single. The Phillies then executed a hit-and-run to perfection with Carlos Ruiz lacing a single to right field to put runners on the corners with no outs. "That's our game," said Ruiz, who went 4-for-4 with a double to raise his batting average from .196 to .260. "That's what [Phillies manager Ryne] Sandberg said in Spring Training. We have to do the little things and make something happen. We had a big hit right there. That was great baseball." Freddy Galvis hit a ground ball to Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, who caught Asche in a rundown for the inning's first out. Sandberg then elected to have Hamels hit for himself, rather than calling for a pinch-hitter. Hamels had allowed one run in six innings to that point. "It played in the decision to let him have an at-bat in the seventh inning," Sandberg said. "Not only can he handle the bat and bunt, but also to give him another chance for a win. I thought that would be big for him." Hamels executed a sacrifice bunt to advance runners to second and third. Ben Revere then dropped a ground-rule double on the left-field line to score both runners to make it 2-1. Odubel Herrera followed with a single to score Revere to make it 3-1. It would be plenty for Hamels. Then again, on most nights, it is more than plenty.

Brown’s Uncertain Return – Domonic Brown told reporters Sunday he would rejoin the Phillies on Wednesday. Not so fast. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium that while there has been no official conversations about Brown's status, "From what I've seen, I don't know that he's ready for Major League pitching or to come up and really give us a punch the way that things have gone for him there." Brown has been on the 15-day disabled list since the season started because of tendinitis in his left Achilles. He has been on a rehab assignment since April 9. Once a position player begins a rehab assignment, he has 20 days to be activated from the DL. Brown's 20th day is Tuesday, which means a decision must be made by Wednesday. Brown might have assumed he would be activated and join the Phillies. But the Phillies could activate him and option him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has hit .129 (4-for-31) with one double, two RBIs, four walks and six strikeouts in eight games with the IronPigs. "Maybe it's just not enough at-bats," Sandberg said about Brown's struggles in the Minor Leagues. "He's had some fly-ball outs. He just hasn't connected and hasn't hit for average, which you'd like to see." Asked if he would prefer Brown did not tell people he would be back before a decision had been made, Sandberg said, "Unless he's player-GM."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now near the bottom of the NL east at 8-12. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance this spring, don’t expect their competitive place in the standings to last. All time, the Phillies are 39-49-0 on this day.

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