Anger, fastball fuel Hamels in win over Giants

ap-phillies-cole-hamels.jpg

Anger, fastball fuel Hamels in win over Giants

BOX SCORE

Cole Hamels had a terrific fastball Thursday afternoon and he rode it to a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants (see Instant Replay).

In the clubhouse after the game, Hamels wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Fitness Sucks."

It was an ironic fashion choice because Hamels credited his strength and fitness routine for the 95-mph fastball that he featured in delivering eight innings of one-walk, 10-strikeout baseball.

Hamels began the season on the disabled list after a wintertime bout of shoulder tendinitis. That fastball left no doubt about the health of his arm.

“I think it’s just the workouts that I’ve been able to do in spring training and throughout the season that are starting to kick in,” Hamels said. “Just changing my routine enough where everything stays loose but strong.”

Right from the get-go, it was clear that Hamels was pitching with some edge, some urgency, some anger. He blew a 95-mph fastball by the Giants’ best player, Buster Posey, to end the top of the first inning, and got Hunter Pence on another 95-mph heater in the fifth. Hamels struck out Pence, a Phillie tormenter, three times.

Afterward, Hamels admitted to being in a bit of a bad mood when he took the mound. He’d seen the Giants beat the Phillies three straight nights and wanted to write a different story.

“It’s just about going out there and being able to compete and having a little extra adrenaline and anger, trying to prove a point,” he said. “Just trying to go out and let it happen. I think losing the past three games, you just want to go out there and win.

“It was fun today.”

Run support is often a problem for Hamels and it has been his last two starts. The Phils have scored just four runs -- and both of their runs Thursday were unearned -- in Hamels' last two starts, but that hasn’t stopped the lefty from winning twice. He beat the Braves by the same score, 2-1, his last time out.

In his last two starts, Hamels has allowed just two runs in 15 innings. He has walked one and struck out 19.

“He's pitched like an ace,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “When we get him some runs, obviously that has lacked in some of his outings, but a little run support and where he is at right now, he’s at the top of his game.”

Thursday’s run support came in the form of a hustle double by Jimmy Rollins in the first inning, a passed ball and an RBI single by Marlon Byrd.

In the fifth inning, Giants leftfielder Michael Morse dropped a blooper off the bat of Ben Revere and it went for a two-base error. Revere scored on a hit by Chase Utley.

Hamels made the two runs stand up -- with a little help from Jonathan Papelbon, who bounced back from a blown save and a loss the previous two nights and recorded his 24th save.

Though just 5-5, Hamels has a 2.72 ERA in 18 starts. He has 125 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings and has allowed just 102 hits.

Hamels’ name continues to pop up in trade rumblings and the Phillies would listen to offers, but the price is extremely steep -- as it should be. The Phillies, who are 14 games under .500 and headed for a third straight year of no postseason, prefer to rebuild their team around the 30-year-old lefty and performances like this show why.

It was two years ago this week that Hamels signed his $144 million contract extension with the Phils. He is signed through 2018 with an option for 2019.

Hamels was asked if he had any regrets about staying in Philly?

Though he did not answer the question directly, he did not come off as a guy that wants to leave.

“I think the decision I made at the time was with the promise that we would go out and win the whole time when I was here,” he said. “I knew we had Doc [Halladay] and Cliff [Lee] and I felt confident what we could do as a pitching staff.

“But I enjoy pitching here. All the sellouts (2008-2012) and everything that the fans and the organization were able to do for all of us made it an easy decision because it is so much fun to come to this ballpark and win. That’s what I was expecting and what I’m trying to still do.”

He succeeded on Thursday.

United States blanks Puerto Rico to win its first World Baseball Classic

United States blanks Puerto Rico to win its first World Baseball Classic

LOS ANGELES -- The eagle has landed on top.

The United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 to win its first World Baseball Classic in four tries on Wednesday night behind six hitless innings from Marcus Stroman.

The Americans planted their eagle statue mascot on the mound in celebration, a blue cap jauntily hanging from one of its large wings.

"It's a different feeling when the USA is on your chest," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We wanted to get the U.S. back on top of the baseball world, and we did that."

For a sport known as America's pastime, the U.S. had struggled since the WBC began in 2006. Twice, the Americans lost in the second round and they went out in the semifinals in 2009.

This time was different.

"These guys were here to do their best," Team USA general manager Joe Torre said. "The thing I marveled at was how quickly they came together, and Jimmy (Leyland) deserves a lot of that credit. They're just a great group who understood what this event is all about."

Accepting the gleaming silver trophy from baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Leyland told the crowd, "This is for the men and women who serve our country."

After the final out, the Americans massed on the mound, hugging and high-fiving while fireworks exploded in center field. Some of them grabbed a U.S. flag and circled the warning track, waving it in celebration with fans in the stands.

Puerto Rico's fans saluted their team with a standing ovation and the players responded by clapping.

Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games after outscoring the opposition 55-26. The U.S. territory finished runner-up for the second time, having lost to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

Tournament MVP Stroman avenged his shakiness in the Americans' 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico during pool play. The right-hander from the Toronto Blue Jays gave up one hit in six-plus innings, struck out three and walked one on 73 pitches.

He allowed just three balls past the infield until Angel Pagan's double in the left-field corner leading off the seventh, when Stroman departed to a standing ovation, having staked the Americans to a 7-0 lead with the help of Ian Kinsler's two-run homer.

Stroman walked Carlos Beltran leading off the second, but the defense helped him out. Yadier Molina hit the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who started a double play before Stroman struck out Javier Baez to end the inning.

The U.S. pounded out 13 hits and finished with a 6-2 record while making the final for the first time in front of 51,565 at Dodger Stadium.

Kinsler homered off an 0-1 pitch from Seth Lugo into left-center field in the third, scoring Jonathan Lucroy, who singled leading off.

Lugo of the New York Mets allowed four runs and five hits, struck out seven and walked four in four innings. The right-hander won his first two starts of the tournament, including in the second round against Stroman and the U.S.

Stroman gave up six consecutive singles in a four-run first inning and took the loss against Puerto Rico last Friday in San Diego.

The Americans made it 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.

Fans wore flags of both countries as capes and decorated their faces in team colors. Puerto Rico boosters pounded cowbells, tooted horns and blew whistles early on before their team fell behind 4-0.

Fans were on their feet chanting "U-S-A" when the Americans loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs. They were rewarded with Crawford's two-run single that chased J.C. Romero, extending the lead to 6-0.

The U.S. tacked on another run on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI single off Hiram Burgos past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor.

The Americans defeated two-time champion Japan, while Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands to reach the final.

The three games at Dodger Stadium drew 109,892.

Dallas Green did it his way -- driving the Phillies mad, but to the top

Dallas Green did it his way -- driving the Phillies mad, but to the top

Whenever I think of Dallas Green, I think of that night. It was Oct. 21, 1980, the night the Phillies won their first World Series. Green was the manager, the old-school baseball lifer who dragged the Phillies through that summer like a father tugging a whining toddler to the dentist's office. He called them out and cussed them out and challenged them to be the best team in baseball.

On this South Philadelphia night, they finally were. They beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-1, to close out the series, four games to two.

Green was standing in his Veterans Stadium office, his head tilted to one side, his eyes closed, the phone pressed against his ear. He had one hand on the World Series trophy, the other on a freshly opened bottle of Great Western champagne. Flashbulbs were popping all around him. His wife Sylvia and their four children were wiping away tears. Suddenly, the manager's weary eyes snapped to attention.

"Thank you, Mr. President," Green said hearing the voice of Jimmy Carter calling from the White House. "Yes, we're all thrilled. The City of Philadelphia has waited a long time for this moment and we're all enjoying it. There were a lot of people who said we couldn't do it but I think we proved ourselves in this series. We played our hearts out to win this thing."

Green's conversation with the President lasted just a few minutes then he excused himself to rejoin the celebration in the clubhouse. He hugged general manager Paul Owens then went from locker to locker embracing each player, even the ones he feuded with during the season. The sweet taste of autumn champagne washed away the bruised feelings of summer.

"Along the way, I made a few guys unhappy," Green said. "I probably made a few guys miserable. But it was all for a reason."

He nodded toward the celebration.

"This is the reason," he said.

Green drove the Phillies that season, lashing them with his bullwhip tongue, benching veterans for rookies down the stretch, ignoring the grumbling and dirty looks. When Green said, "We're going to do this thing my way," he meant it. Many of the players who were used to the gentle hand of the previous manager Danny Ozark resented Green and made no attempt to hide it. In September they still were sniping at each other. Then, somehow, it all came together.

It was as if the team -- which had fallen short in other years and underachieved in the postseason -- won it all that year just so it could have the satisfaction of throwing that World Series confetti in its manager's face. If that's what it took -- and believe me, that was part of it -- it was fine with Green.

"I'm proud of all these guys, every one of them," Green said that night. "I'm including guys like Larry Bowa and Garry Maddox, guys I had my differences with during the season. When we needed them down the stretch, they busted their butts for this team. I told them in spring training we had the talent to go all the way. I said, 'Hey, we've got the personnel to win this thing but we're gonna do it my way.' There were some doubters in the group, there were those who resisted, but look where we are now."

To get some idea of what that season was like, picture this scene: It is Sunday, Aug. 11, a sweltering hot day in Pittsburgh. The Phillies have just lost the first game of a doubleheader, 7-1, to the Pirates. Green orders the clubhouse doors locked so the reporters are standing in the hallway. The manager launches into a profane rant that is so loud we can hear every word.

"You guys have got to stop being so (expletive) cool," Green bellowed. "Get that through your (expletive) heads. Get the (expletive) off your asses. You're a good (expletive) baseball team but you're not now and you can't look in the (expletive) mirror and tell me that you are. You tell me you can do it but you (expletive) give up.

"If you don't want to (expletive) play, come in my office and (expletive) tell me because I don't want to (expletive) play you."

When the clubhouse door opened, the reporters tiptoed in expecting to find the walls scorched and furniture broken. Instead, Green was sitting behind his desk, his jaw clenched but his voice calm.

"I'm not gonna let these guys quit on themselves," he said. "If I have to yell at them to get them going, I'll yell good and loud. I may not be doing this (leading the club) the right way but I'm doing it the only way I know how."

The Phillies went on to Chicago where they won two of three from the Cubs then to New York where they swept the Mets. The Phils rolled to the Eastern Division title then defeated Houston in a dramatic National League Championship Series and put away the Royals to claim their first world championship. The players had Big D's voice ringing in their ears every step of the way.

The night they won it, the night they finally reached the top of the mountain, Dallas Green enjoyed it more than anyone else. He grew up in Delaware, he was like family to the Carpenters who owned the team. He was a pitcher on the Phillies team that folded down the stretch in 1964. He carried those scars into a career in the front office and finally the dugout. Then came 1980 and the wild ride to the top.

"I know the players are happy and I'm happy as hell for them," Green said leaning against the clubhouse wall. "But they can't appreciate this the way I can. I've been a Phillie forever. I made a stop at every level in the organization: player, coach, manager, farm director. I have a feel for what this (win) means for all the people behind the scenes like the secretaries and the front office staff. I know how they feel right now.

"What do I feel? I feel drained. I feel as if I've given everything I've got to give. But, goddam, it feels good to be on top."