Anger, fastball fuel Hamels in win over Giants


Anger, fastball fuel Hamels in win over Giants


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.

Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning recovering from stroke

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Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning recovering from stroke

National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and Phillies great Jim Bunning is recovering from a stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bunning, who suffered the stroke Tuesday night in his Southgate, Kentucky, home, was moved from intensive care to a transitional care unit on Thursday night, per the report.

Bunning "has been provided skilled care that is leading him on the road to recovery," the family said in a statement Friday.

"The Bunning family wants to thank the first responders and medical personnel who have been treating dad," the statement said. "We sincerely appreciate the thoughts and prayers of all who are concerned about our father’s health. However, so we can focus our efforts on dad’s recovery, we ask the press to respect our family’s privacy at this time. We will let everyone know as his health continues to improve."

The 84-year old is one of two Phillies pitchers to toss a perfect game in the organization’s history. He accomplished the feat on Father’s Day in 1964.

Along with the Phillies, Bunning played for the Tigers, Pirates and Dodgers in his 17-year career. The righthander, who was enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1984, won 89 games and posted a 2.93 ERA in six seasons in Philadelphia. 

After his baseball days, Bunning started a career in politics. He served stints in Congress and the U.S. Senate before retiring in 2010.

MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

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MLB playoffs: Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.

Lineup shuffle
Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.

Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.