Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hamels Homer Happy As Boston Blasts Phillies

GAME RECAP: Red Sox Dominate Phillies 8-0

The Red Sox looked just fine without Cole Hamels in their rotation Monday in a convincing 8-0 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Dustin Pedroia homered twice and Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez each homered once in five innings against Hamels, who has been linked to the Red Sox in trade speculation since the offseason. Ramirez tied a bow on the afternoon when he hit a broken-bat grand slam against Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman in the ninth. "We know just getting out of the gate is important to us," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "One game does not make for that. Still, we understand the importance of April. Teams that have been successful here and gone deep into a postseason have gotten off to a good start, and we know that's important to us." Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz looked every bit an ace against the Phillies. He allowed three hits, walked just one and struck out nine in seven scoreless innings. "It was good," Buchholz said. "There was a lot of building up to this moment. I felt good all spring. It's just another step, I guess. I was a little more anxious today than I have been for [other] first starts given all the attention to it. After the first couple pitches, it felt like a normal game." "Any time you start the season, you want to get that first one, not only for your teammates, but for the organization," Hamels said. "It's not the case. It definitely didn't go the way we envisioned. I know I'm one of the big culprits of that."

  • This is the first time the Phillies have been shut out on Opening Day since March 31, 1998, when they lost in 14 innings to the Mets at Shea Stadium, 1-0. Ricky Bottalico took the loss, allowing the game-winning hit to pinch-hitter Alberto Castillo. It is the eighth time they have been shut out on Opening Day in franchise history.
  • It was the eightieth shutout loss for the Phillies in franchise history. The eight-run difference was their most lopsided of those eighty. They lost 7-0 to the New York Giants in 1902 and Atlanta Braves in 1987.
  • General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last month that "we're not going to score a lot of runs." The offense held true to form -- its .641 OPS in Spring Training was the lowest in baseball -- managing just three hits against Buchholz in seven innings. "We didn't have great at-bats," Phillies right fielder Grady Sizemore said. "Not bad at-bats. We just didn't square a lot of balls up. [Buchholz] did a good job of moving it around and mixing it up. He was locating the curveball, throwing it for strikes and not leaving a lot of heaters over the plate. It's tough. It's a battle."
  • Hamels is a slow starter, and his early-season troubles continued Monday. He allowed four solo home runs in five innings to take the loss. Hamels is 1-7 with a 5.13 ERA (30 earned runs in 52 2/3 innings) in 10 career games to start a season. "I think it's just kind of the way that's gone," Hamels said. "Sometimes that's the situation, but it's nothing that I'm trying to go out and purposely do."
  • Harang signed a one-year, $5 million contract this offseason to provide a little more depth to the Phillies' rotation. He became much more important with Cliff Lee's nearly certain season-ending elbow injury. Harang battled back problems early in camp, but he finished the Grapefruit League schedule without further issues. The best-case scenario for the Phillies might be that Harang pitches well and becomes an attractive trade chip before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
  • Porcello is coming off a career year, as he established personal bests in wins (15), ERA (3.43) and innings (204 2/3). The righty looked solid during Spring Training, and he has looked comfortable blending in with his new teammates. This is the earliest Porcello has ever pitched in a season. He pitched the fourth game five times for the Tigers and the third game once.
  • Red Sox cleanup man Hanley Ramirez has feasted against Harang in his career, going 10-for-29 with five homers and seven RBIs. David Ortiz has had similar success, going 5-for-11 with three doubles and a homer. Phillies leadoff man Ben Revere has done well against Porcello, going 7-for-19.

After the Red Sox's revamped lineup cruised to an 8-0 Opening Day win on Monday, Game 2 of this three-game series features two veteran right-handers making debuts for their new team. Rick Porcello, who is being counted on to be a big part of Boston's starting rotation, will make his first career start for someone other than the Detroit Tigers. Right-hander Aaron Harang makes his Phillies debut in the second game of the three-game series. Harang went 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 starts last season with the Braves. The well-traveled Aaron Harang pitched for the Athletics, Reds, Dodgers, Padres, Mariners, Mets and Braves before coming to the Phillies.


First Pitch – Chase Utley still rules. But Julie Kramer isn't bad, either. She threw a strike to home plate for her ceremonial first pitch before the Phillies opened their 2015 season Monday at Citizens Bank Park. Kramer, who is from Tabernacle, N.J., is a cancer survivor who appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in December, where she discussed her inspiring battle with Stage 4 synovial sarcoma. Kramer told DeGeneres' folks that she was a huge Utley fan, so DeGeneres had Utley surprise her on set with gifts and the invitation to come to as many Phillies games as she wanted this season. "You rule!" Kramer said that day. Kramer was on the field before Monday's game with DeGeneres' crew, which was filming her big day for an upcoming show. Kramer and Utley chatted for a few minutes prior to the game starting.

Hamels Not Concerned – Cole Hamels has been saying all the right things since he told USA Today in February that he wants to win and "I know it's not going to happen here." Hamels could have made an unspoken statement about his future Monday afternoon, if he had dominated the Red Sox on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park. He has been linked to the Red Sox since the offseason because the Phillies are rebuilding and covet Boston's top prospects, although the Red Sox have shown no inclination to give the Phillies what they want. But Hamels struggled in the 8-0 loss. He allowed five hits, four runs, three walks and four home runs with six strikeouts in five innings. It was just the second time in his career he had allowed four home runs in a game. The only other time came April 23, 2010, in Arizona. Is there any reason to be concerned? Of course not. Hamels is a slow starter. He fell to 1-7 with a 5.13 ERA (30 earned runs in 52 2/3 innings) in 10 career games to begin a season. "I think it's just kind of the way that's gone," Hamels said of his early-season struggles. "Sometimes that's the situation, but it's nothing that I'm trying to go out and purposely do." Hamels allowed a solo home run to Dustin Pedroia in the first inning and a solo home run to Mookie Betts in the third inning. Ironically, Betts is one of Boston's players Philadelphia has coveted most, although there is probably no chance the Sox will part with Betts at this point. Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez each hit solo homers in the fifth inning to hand Boston a 4-0 lead. Pedroia and Betts hit fastballs for their homers. Ramirez sent a 0-1 changeup deep. "Cole didn't get away with any high fastballs," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "His command was not sharp at all." So Hamels will head back to the ballpark Wednesday in preparation for his next start Saturday night against the Nationals. He knows one game does not make a season. But the Phillies are expected to struggle this season, and the days Hamels pitches are expected to be the days with their best chances to win. Hamels said he feels no pressure in that. "No matter if we're veterans, young guys or have a couple years in the league, it takes a team to win a ballgame and it takes a team to lose a ballgame," Hamels said. "I just want to be accountable for what I do and today didn't go the way I planned it. I wasn't able to make the right pitches at the right time."

Not A Good Outing – Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg noted late in Spring Training that he has not seen the sharpness or velocity he expects from hard-throwing relief pitchers Ken Giles and Jake Diekman. Giles, who had an 8.00 ERA in 10 Grapefruit League appearances, has been dealing with a strained back, although the Phillies said he is healthy. His fastball hit just 94 mph Monday. Diekman, who had an 8.18 ERA in 10 spring appearances, allowed a grand slam to Hanley Ramirez in the ninth inning Monday in an 8-0 loss to the Red Sox on Opening Day. "That's the best stuff I've seen all spring," Sandberg said about Diekman. "In Spring Training, he was throwing 94, 95. He was 97-99 today. His fastball was there." But Diekman allowed a single to Allen Craig, walked Mookie Betts and walked Mike Napoli to load the bases. Ramirez hit an 0-2 slider for the grand slam. Ramirez broke his bat on the pitch. "I felt good," Diekman said. "But when pitches are belt high, they're going to hit them no matter what. I just need to get the ball down more. I mean, everything was up. That slider was pretty much right where it needed to be for a homer. It was hung really, really bad."

The Man Who Dominated Opening Day – The Phillies know their limitations offensively, but they still hoped for a respectable showing Monday on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park. Instead, they managed just three hits in an 8-0 loss to the Red Sox. It was their first shutout loss on Opening Day since 1998, when they lost 1-0 in 14 innings to the Mets at Shea Stadium. It was the Phils' eighth shutout loss on Opening Day in franchise history, and the worst of the bunch. They lost 7-0 to the New York Giants in 1902 and Atlanta Braves in 1987. "I mean, it's one game," Phillies right fielder Grady Sizemore said. "We've got a long season to go. We'll bounce back and be ready for Wednesday." Boston starter Clay Buchholz fanned nine over seven shutout frames, and then Junichi Tazawa and Tommy Layne allowed just one walk over the final two innings. Ryan Howard hit a double to left-center field with two outs in the fifth inning to snap Buchholz's no-hit bid. Carlos Ruiz and Sizemore hit back-to-back singles in the seventh inning to get something going, but Cody Asche hit into a fielder's choice and Freddy Galvis swung weakly and missed a 0-2 fastball outside the strike zone to end the inning. The Phillies entered the season knowing scoring runs consistently was going to be a challenge, but Monday's performance against Buchholz underlined those concerns. The Phillies posted a .641 OPS in Spring Training, which was the lowest mark in baseball. "You can't put any stock into spring," Sizemore said. "It's one game." "There will be a chance to have some different lineups and try some different things with some different looks," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I'm just looking at this on the offensive side of things as just one game out of 162."

Off To The Bullpen – Dustin McGowan has started in the past, but he is expected to be a relief pitcher for the Phillies. The Phillies signed him Saturday after the Dodgers released him last week. McGowan, 33, went 5-3 with a 4.17 ERA in 53 appearances (eight starts) last season with Toronto. He is 25-27 with a 4.57 ERA in 158 appearances (68 starts) over parts of seven seasons with the Blue Jays. "I don't know how much starting I can do anymore," said McGowan, who had a 6.75 ERA in seven Cactus League appearances. McGowan cited right-shoulder surgeries in 2008 and '10 and a shoulder injury in '13 as reasons why he is best suited for a full-time bullpen spot. He had a 3.35 ERA in 45 relief appearances last season.

One Less Option – The Padres made a last-minute blockbuster trade Sunday when they acquired closer Craig Kimbrel from the Braves. Poof, just like that, the Phillies crossed off another potential landing spot for Jonathan Papelbon. Baseball sources Monday said the Padres expressed marginal interest in Papelbon a few months ago, but nothing recently. The Braves and Padres matched up well. The Braves cleared Melvin Upton Jr.'s entire contract from the books. He is owed $46.3 million. The Padres moved Carlos Quentin, who is owed $11 million this season, and Cameron Maybin, who is owed $16 million over the next two seasons. The Braves are paying their contracts. Simply put, the Padres were willing to eat Upton's contract to acquire the best closer in baseball. The Braves were willing to eat Quentin's and Maybin's contracts to acquire some young talent and a Draft pick. The Braves received pitching prospect Matt Wisler, whom MLBPipeline.com considered the Padres' fourth-best prospect, and outfielder Jordan Paroubeck, whom San Diego drafted in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. The Braves also received the 41st overall selection in this year's Draft.

Needing A Little Extra – The Phillies had no major surprises on their Opening Day roster, but manager Ryne Sandberg on Monday explained a few of the team's final decisions. The Phillies chose to carry an extra reliever rather than an extra bench player. The team does not need a fifth starter until Sunday. "Early in the season with the possible pitch counts coming into the season, it's nice to have an extra arm in the bullpen," Sandberg said. The eight-man bullpen includes Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Luis Garcia, Jeanmar Gomez, Cesar Jimenez and Dustin McGowan, whom the team signed to a contract Saturday after the Dodgers released him last week. "McGowan was a guy we actually targeted over the winter," Sandberg said. The Phillies chose Jeff Francoeur for a bench job, despite other outfielders in camp outperforming him. He joins Darin Ruf, Cameron Rupp, Cesar Hernandez and Andres Blanco on the bench. "A need for a right-handed bat," Sandberg said, explaining Francoeur's spot on the roster. Francoeur also plays well as a corner outfielder. The Phillies like his intangibles in the clubhouse, too. It could be a very long season for the Phillies, so a guy like Francoeur could help the club's young players survive it. Cord Phelps (.870 OPS) had a much better spring than Hernandez (.482 OPS) or Blanco (.601 OPS), but Hernandez was out of options and the Phillies wanted a true shortstop on the bench.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now tied for last in the NL east at 0-1 but they are also only one game behind first place. 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 11-17-0 on this day.

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