Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels pitched a career game. No, make that a Hall of Fame career game as the Phils beat the Cincinnati Reds by a 4-1 score thanks to offensive support from 2nd baseman Chase Utley and centerfielder Aaron Rowand and a defensive gem by the infield — a third-to-second-to-first triple play as Hamels recorded his first major league complete game and the Phillies first complete game of the season, striking out 15 Reds hitters in the process. In the very first inning, he set the tone for the game by striking out the side. Hamels’ record stands at 2-0 for the season.
“He had it all working tonight, This is one of the best games I’ve ever caught.”
With slugging 1st baseman Ryan Howard still nursing the sprained ligament just below his left knee, manager Charlie Manuel shook up his starting lineup putting rightfielder Shane Victorino in the leadoff spot, moving Rowand to 2nd spot, with shortstop Jimmy Rollins batting 3rd and Utley in the cleanup spot followed by leftfielder Pat Burrell. Victorino went 2 for 4, Utley was 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs while Rollins and Burrell went hitless for the game.
Utley got the Phils of to a 2-0 in the first inning with a one out, 2 run double. In the 2nd inning, 1st baseman and former Phillie Jeff Conine led off with a solo homer to leftfield on what was Hamels’ only mistake of the game.
The Phils got that run back in the 6th inning as Utley belted a one out solo blast to rightfield for a 3-1 Phillies lead, all runs being scored off of Cincinnati starter lefthander Eric Milton who pitched well but was far out-shone by Hamels. Milton was charged with the loss, his record is now 0-3.
Reliever Victor Santos relieved Milton in the 7th and pitched 2 innings. In the 8th, Aaron Rowand put the Phils’ 4th run on the board with a solo homer off of Santos. Reliever Kirk Saarloos mopped up in the 9th setting the Phils down in order.
But it was Hamels’ performance which dominated the game as he was every bit as devastatingly brilliant in the late innings as he was at the game’s start, striking out the side in the 8th inning with runners on and going 3 up, 3 down in the 9th.
Hamels got at least one strikeout in every inning except the 5th. In the 5th, rightfielder Josh Hamilton led off with a walk, one of two walks given up by Hamels for the game. 3rd baseman Edwin Encarnacion followed with a single to center with Hamilton going to 2nd base. This brought up catcher David Ross with 2 on and none out. Yahoo sports’ AP recap describes what happened next;
David Ross hit a grounder to Phillies third baseman Abraham Nunez, who stepped on third to force Hamilton and threw to second baseman Chase Utley to force Encarnacion for the second out.
Utley’s relay to first baseman Wes Helms caught Ross by a step. The Reds hadn’t hit into a triple play since catcher Eddie Taubensee lined into one against San Diego on May 19, 1997.
“(Ross) was the perfect guy to do it,” Nunez said. “I said to myself, ‘If I get the ball close to the bag, I’m going to try for it.”‘
The triple play helped the Phillies preserve a 2-1 lead.
“I’m sure it saved me 10 or 15 pitches,” Hamels said.
“The triple play was pretty exciting,” Utley said. “It’s the first one I’ve ever been a part of. It happened so quickly.”
There were five triple plays turned in the majors last season, the last by the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 18, against the Detroit Tigers.
MLB.com’s Brian Connors Manke added these comments from other Phillies;
“It was just what the doctor ordered,” Manuel said.
“It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever had happen,” Hamels began.
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