Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hamels And Howard Travel Back To 2008

GAME RECAP: Phillies Top Mets 3-1

It felt a little like old times for the Phillies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. A pair of homegrown veterans led them to a 3-1 victory over the Mets. Cole Hamels allowed four hits, one run, two walks and struck out eight in seven innings, while Ryan Howard went 2-for-3 with one home run, two RBIs and one walk. "It's awesome," Hamels said about Howard's night. "Ryan and I have played a lot together, and obviously I've seen a lot of his home runs. It's really good to see. He's been working his tail off. It's just like Chase [Utley] -- you want those guys to go out there and put up the numbers we're accustomed to seeing. It's great to see Howie do that right now." Mets ace Matt Harvey couldn't contain the Phillies, who entered the night averaging 2.83 runs per game, the lowest in baseball. He allowed three runs in six innings to take the loss. "I needed to put up zeros tonight, and I didn't do that," Harvey said. "[I have] got to go back to square one and get back to where I was. Tomorrow I just begin to get ready for my next start."

  • It has been an up-and-down season for Hamels, but he stepped up in a big way Friday. He loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth inning, but struck out Harvey to end the threat. He cruised the rest of the night, retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced to improve to 2-3 with a 3.68 ERA.
  • Howard entered the game hitting .255 (13-for-51) with two doubles, one triple, five home runs, 11 RBIs and a .949 OPS in his last 14 games. He singled in the first, beating the defensive shift, to score a run to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. He then hit a solo homer to left-center field in the fourth to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
  • File this under improbable: Utley went 0-for-4 to drop his batting average to .099. According to Baseball Reference, it is the lowest batting average for a qualified hitter through his team's first 30 games since 1914. Utley declined comment about his slump earlier this week in Atlanta. He was not in the clubhouse more than 40 minutes following the final out Friday.
  • Papelbon picked up the save to tie Jose Mesa for the franchise record (112). Papelbon already is Boston's all-time saves leader (219), which makes him one of two pitchers in baseball history to lead two franchises in saves. Robb Nen is the other. He has 108 saves for the Marlins and 206 saves for the Giants.
  • "It means a lot, actually. A lot of people might not think that, but it means a lot. It's really humbling to be at the top with Jose Mesa. I didn't necessarily come here to do this and break this milestone. I came here to hopefully win some championships." -- Jonathan Papelbon, who tied Jose Mesa for the Phillies' record with 112 saves.
Aaron Harang will make his seventh start of the season for the Phillies on Saturday, his 37th birthday. The right-hander is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA and has a 29:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. All of those marks are tops among Phillies starters.


Return To Form – When Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels emerged from the dugout to pitch the second inning of Friday night's start, he walked back onto the field to an unfamiliar sight. The Phillies were winning. After the offense combined to score a mere six runs while he was in the game in his first six starts combined, Hamels benefited from an early 1-0 lead and worked into a groove, retiring nine of the first 11 batters he faced in the Phillies' 3-1 win. Hamels couldn't maintain the same level of performance in the fourth inning, relenting a run on two singles, two wild pitches and two walks, one of which was intentional. The lefty threw 25 pitches that inning, just under a quarter of his total for the night. In the mind of Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, the fourth inning was just a hiccup on an otherwise smooth night for his starter. "Cole was really in control of the game the whole night," Sandberg said. "He had the one inning in the fourth with the run scoring on the wild pitch. He got out of that. But other than that, he was in control." Once Hamels had worked out of the bases-loaded jam in the fourth, it only took his offense one pitch to give him back the lead. First baseman Ryan Howard drilled a Matt Harvey pitch over the 387-foot marker in left-center field to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Hamels never looked back, retiring the next eight batters he faced and nine of his last 10 overall. Hamels said having this lead motivated him to keep his pitches in the zone, daring the Mets to beat him rather than allowing his mistakes to benefit the opponents as they did in the fourth. "We've got a lead, so you want to make sure they earn it," Hamels said. "Not walking guys, I know that's kind of been my problem in the past. So I was just trying to go after them, and if they get on with hits, they get on with hits. I didn't really want to give them free passes." In total, Hamels went seven innings, fanning eight Mets and allowing just four hits in a winning effort. The win improved Hamels' record to 2-3 and dropped his ERA to 3.68. Despite the win, the day wasn't without a little bit of embarrassment for Hamels. In the home half of the fifth inning, Hamels was credited with a sacrifice bunt that moved catcher Carlos Ruiz into scoring position. Ruiz scored one at-bat later. However, Hamels didn't think his bunt attempt landed in fair territory and turned his back to the field. Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki promptly tagged Hamels out, and the pitcher walked back to the dugout confused. As aware as he was of where he was placing the ball on the mound, Hamels admitted it took him a long time to realize where that ball was. "I think [it was] when I was walking back to the dugout," Hamels said.

Papelbon Ties Mesa – Jonathan Papelbon knows his words might be difficult to believe considering everything that has happened since he joined the Phillies in 2012, but he said Friday night's events meant something to him. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn a save in Friday's 3-1 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. It was the 112th save of his Phillies career, which tied Jose Mesa for the most saves in franchise history. "It means a lot, actually," Papelbon said. "A lot of people might not think that, but it means a lot. It's really humbling to be at the top with Jose Mesa. I didn't necessarily come here to do this and break this milestone. I came here to hopefully win some championships. We're still trying to get to that realm. For me, it's very humbling to be atop this organization with all the history it has."  Papelbon already is Boston's all-time saves leader (219), which makes him one of two pitchers in baseball history to lead two franchises in saves. Robb Nen is the other. He has 108 saves for the Marlins and 206 saves for the Giants. Papelbon has had quite a run since he joined the Phillies. He is 12-10 with a 2.40 ERA and 112 saves. He has struck out 226 batters in 210 1/3 innings. He has done his job. But he also has upset some Phillies fans over the years with critical comments about the city, the organization and the fan base. He even got suspended late last season for an inappropriate gesture following a blown save. He has said he relishes the villain role. So when Papelbon said he appreciates his new place in Phillies history and is humbled, he knows some fans might not get past the other stuff and believe it. "I think me going out there and the way that I play and the way that I go about my business and try to play with intensity and passion," Papelbon said, "I think that should kind of speak for itself. And hopefully some fans will see that. And I understand that some fans won't." Papelbon came to Philadelphia to win. That hasn't happened, and it might not as long as he is here. But while he has been brash on and off the field, he has mentored the relievers in the bullpen. By most accounts, he has been a good teammate. But he knows better than anybody that winning is the only thing that matters. It matters to him. It matters to the city. "Hopefully the fans can understand my passion for this game," he said. "It hasn't been an easy road since I've come here. And I know that we haven't been to the playoffs, and I know that's tough for me. I am who I am. Like I said, to be at the top here is a really humbling experience for me. I've been fortunate enough to stay healthy. Hopefully I can continue to stay healthy and help this club win."

Howard Turning Corner? – Everybody wondered what type of hitter Ryan Howard might be in 2015. Maybe this is the guy. He went 2-for-3 with one home run, two RBIs and one walk in Friday's 3-1 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He singled to right field in the first inning, beating the defensive shift, to score Freddy Galvis from second base to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. He hit a solo home run to left-center field in the fourth inning to make it 2-1. Howard is hitting .278 (15-for-54) with two doubles, one triple, six home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.035 OPS in his last 15 games. He hit .175 (7-for-40) with three doubles, two RBIs and a .464 OPS in his first 11 games, which included Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg dropping Howard from fourth all the way to seventh in the lineup. Howard left the clubhouse Friday before reporters could speak to him, but Sandberg and others said plenty. "The contact, the quality of the at-bats, laying off pitches, taking some walks," Sandberg said about Howard's turnaround. "Howie looks like he's gained a lot of confidence. That goes with the quality at-bats he's had." Galvis helped Howard pick up his first RBI of the night. The Mets moved third baseman Daniel Murphy to right-center field for Howard's at-bat, leaving shortstop Wilmer Flores as the only defender on the left side of the infield. Flores played a little closer to third on the first pitch to Howard, but inched closer to second after that. Galvis, who went 3-for-3 to raise his batting average to .351, saw an opportunity and took off for third on the fourth pitch of the at-bat, and Howard laced it to right field. Murphy knocked down the ball, but by the time he recovered, Galvis had rounded third, and Murphy had no play. "I just went for it," Galvis said. "If I wasn't going, I think they could have thrown to home plate." And Howard's performance lately? "He's hitting the ball right on the good spot," Galvis said. "I know he's going to keep doing it."

More Than Just A Glove – Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams is not pitching on Mother's Day, but he promises something special for the occasion. "It's a cool tribute," Williams said. "I've got a couple things. You'll see it. Trust me." Phils fans certainly have seen Williams pitching with a pink glove this season. He wears the glove to honor his mother, Deborah, who died of breast cancer in 2001. But Williams also has green, blue, purple and gold gloves. Green represents liver cancer, blue represents prostate cancer, gold represents childhood cancer and purple represents pancreatic cancer. Williams has not yet worn the other gloves in a game, but it could be coming. "It's random," he said. "It could be a random day when I decide to use one." Williams came up with the idea for the colored gloves in the offseason with Wayne Lee, who works for Williams' glove manufacturer. Lee asked Williams which colors he wanted, so Williams asked friends about any forms of cancer that affected them. Williams could have quietly donated money to the American Cancer Society, but the fact people have asked him about the gloves is exactly why he did it. "We're in the spotlight on the field and on TV," Williams said. "I could donate money, but it doesn't show any type of awareness. Going out there and using a different glove and having people wonder why and then when I say why, the people that have been affected by it are looking at it like, 'That's kind of cool. We appreciate that.' That's the whole thing behind it. I want people to appreciate what I'm doing, because I'm doing this from my heart. Everybody knows the story about my mother, but I want to branch out to other cancers, because we don't look at them like breast cancer and prostate cancer." Williams said Mother's Day remains an important day for him. "It's almost like a holiday for me," he said. "Like a really big holiday for me. It's a celebration for mothers out there. But for me, it's a celebration of my mother. That day has been very tough on me over the years. You see mothers coming in and throwing out first pitches and their sons are catching and things like that. I kind of get worked up."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 11-19. 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 46-44-0 on this day.

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