Hamels continues hot streak as Phillies beat Mets

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Hamels continues hot streak as Phillies beat Mets

NEW YORK – The only thing hotter than Cole Hamels’ name in trade rumors is his pitching hand.

Hamels turned in another ace-level performance in leading the Phillies to a 6-0 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

The left-hander delivered eight shutout innings. He scattered six hits, walked none and struck out eight.

Often the victim of poor run support, Hamels was backed by three home runs, including a grand slam by Chase Utley.

“It was good to see,” Hamels said of the six-pack of runs.

Over his last three starts, Hamels has pitched 23 innings and allowed just two runs. He has 27 strikeouts and one walk over that span.

Pretty impressive.

Since June 1, he has a 1.58 ERA (15 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings) over 12 starts. He has 89 strikeouts and 24 walks in those 12 starts.

Pretty impressive.

“He’s really in a groove,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “You can see it just in the way he attacks hitters and with his aggressiveness and conviction.”

All right, let’s get to the juicy stuff: Is this guy going to be a Phillie after the non-waiver trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. Thursday?

Sandberg said he would be “surprised” if Hamels were traded, but he added, “That’s not really my department.”

The Phillies, headed toward a third straight October of no baseball and in need of a serious retooling, have long made Hamels available -- for a steep price. They are seeking the type of return that could quickly rebuild a franchise -- multiple top, major-league ready prospects. If they get the return they want, great. If they don’t, they still have one of the best pitchers in baseball on their team.

The predominant feeling around the organization is Hamels, 30, will remain with the club as the cornerstone of the retooling effort. But if general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is blown away, you never know.

What does Hamels think?

“All I know is I signed here for a very extended period of time (through 2018), so that’s what I’m going to uphold to be a Phillie as long as I possibly can because I enjoy it,” he said. “This is a great organization to me, and the fans have been outstanding. This is the place that I want to win again. It was such a great experience. All of us, especially these young guys, you can’t tell them enough that this is the place you want to win a World Series because it’s the most exciting time you’ll ever have in your career. For me, I want to be able to have it again here.”

Hamels’ name has been smokin’ hot in recent trade rumblings with teams like the Dodgers reportedly making a play for the pitcher. Hamels, who has a partial no-trade clause, can’t block a trade to the Dodgers.

Trade deadline time can be an anxious time for some players. Look at how reliever Antonio Bastardo flopped when his name got hot last week. Look at the poor performance delivered by A.J. Burnett with scouts watching him on Monday night.

Hamels has shown no anxiety. He realizes a trade is a possibility -- a long shot, but a possibility -- and he just keeps getting better and better.

“It’s not something I can affect,” he said. “I understand the nature of the business. I’ll never have hard feelings because it’s a tough position for an organization to be in, for fans, for other teams. If you start putting the pressure on yourself then you’re taking away the focus of what your job is which is to pitch deep into ballgames and win ballgames for whatever team I’m on. I just enjoy pitching for this team and that’s what I’m doing at this moment.

“I enjoy playing the game of baseball wherever it may be. I just want to go out there and do well for my teammates, for whatever organization wants me, and especially to put on a good show for the fans.”

Despite the Phillies’ offensive shortcomings, Sandberg has made it clear he wants to build this club around pitching a defense. He wants Hamels on his team now and in the future.

“I sure like when he takes the mound for us,” Sandberg said. “Going forward, you need pitching and right now he’s our best. So going forward, we need pitching. He’d be nice to have. Then again, I don’t know all the conversations that are going on right now.”

Best of MLB: Solo homers power Cubs to win over Giants

Best of MLB: Solo homers power Cubs to win over Giants

CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist hit solo homers, spot starter Eddie Butler pitched five effective innings and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-1 on Thursday for their third straight win.

Mike Montgomery followed with four scoreless innings and allowed one hit in his first save.

Heyward went deep for the second time in three games and Zobrist added two singles as the Cubs took three of four games in a set with the Giants and finished a homestand at 7-2 (see full recap).

Cruz blast helps Mariners top Nationals
WASHINGTON -- Nelson Cruz greeted reliever Jacob Turner with a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Thursday to stop a five-game losing streak.

Gio Gonzalez took a 2-0 lead into the sixth, when Jean Segura singled leading off and Guillermo Heredia took a called third strike. That prompted Seattle manager Scott Servais to complain from the dugout, which led to his ejection by plate umpire Adam Hamari.

Robinson Cano singled, and Washington manager Dusty Baker brought in Turner (2-3), despite Cruz having just one hit in 15 at-bats against Gonzalez. Cruz drove a belt-high slider over the fence in left-center for his 12th homer this season and a 3-2 lead. Cruz leads the AL with 40 RBIs.

Cano added an RBI single off Turner in the seventh. Seattle scored multiple runs for the first time since May 18 (see full recap).

Andriese, Rasmus help Rays blank Angels
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Matt Andriese allowed six hits over eight innings, Colby Rasmus drove in four runs and the Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a split of a four-game series with Los Angeles by beating the Angels 4-0 on Thursday.

Andriese (5-1) improved to 4-0 over his last five starts, holding the Angels to 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Los Angeles threatened in five innings against the right-hander.

Rasmus had a pair of key two-out hits with the bases loaded: a two-run single in the first and a fifth-inning double that made it 4-0.

Tommy Hunter got three outs to complete a six-hitter (see full recap).

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph is making the Phillies' situation at first base quite tricky.

Joseph on Thursday continued building on his red-hot month of May by going 2 for 5 with a game-tying homer in the seventh and a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning of the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's hit .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

That'll hold off the eye-popping production of Rhys Hoskins for now (see Future Phillies Report).

Extending it further, Joseph has played 148 career games with 499 plate appearances in the majors. That's just a bit less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. He's provided above-average offensive production from first base.

Most Phillies fans know Joseph's story — big-time catching prospect acquired from the Giants in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, series of concussions, position switch, hot start to 2016 at Triple A, promotion, production.

It was a long, winding road for Joseph, and when he was asked Thursday if he expected to be this solid 500 plate appearances into his major-league career, he brought up health.

"My goals were to be healthy, to be able to play in 162 games and that's all I really want to be able to do," Joseph said. "That's something I haven't been able to do in my career and it's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the challenge to go through the mental challenge and the physical challenge and I'd say that's my No. 1 goal, that's my only goal. Because if I'm able to stay healthy and stay on the field then I'm able to enjoy this great game and getting to share it with my teammates."

As for the May adjustments, Joseph said the standard things about communicating with hitting coach Matt Stairs, working in the cage and staying consistent with his approach. His timing wasn't there in April but it's certainly been there in May.

"There's no telling what clicks in a guy, it's just a matter of making a minor adjustment sometimes, possibly getting better pitches to hit," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's no telling what it is, but he just looks a lot more comfortable at the plate."

Bullpen bouncing back
It's been completely overshadowed by the Phillies' recent skid but the bullpen has pitched very well of late. The unit that was overworked and criticized in April has combined to allow just two earned runs in its last 22 2/3 innings. On Thursday, six Phillies relievers — Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez — pitched six scoreless innings.

Neshek made the play of the day, diving and landing on his head to snag a pop-up bunt attempt before turning and firing to first base for the double play.

"I said early on that I think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said of the bullpen. "And after today you can see why I have a lot of confidence in them."

Neshek, who has pitched in the postseason for four different teams, said Thursday that he thinks this is one of the best bullpens he's ever been around. It's not lip service, either. The unit was terrible in April, there's no getting around that. But some of that really did have to do with the overuse. Setup men were entering in the sixth inning. Opportunities for holds and saves were few and far between. Roles were not defined.

Stuff-wise, repertoire-wise, there is a lot to like about the Phillies' bullpen. Neris, Benoit and Neshek all offer vastly different looks and have track records of success.

While Neshek didn't totally endorse Benoit's comments from a few weeks ago that everything would settle down once the relievers knew specifically which inning they'd pitch, he did say that he too feels most comfortable coming in during a hold opportunity.

"I think my numbers show that I'm best in those situations, coming into a hold opportunity when we're ahead," Neshek said. "We haven't had much of those lately."

The horrendous start to the season for the Phillies' relievers will skew their stats all season long, but it's nice to see that at least one aspect of this team is starting to get into a groove.