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.”

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff approaches 200-inning mark

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Jerad Eickhoff approaches 200-inning mark

Phillies (70-86) at Braves (63-92)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

After losing by three possessions on Sunday and getting an off day Monday to think about it, the Phillies are back in action Tuesday night to begin their final road series of 2016.

Let's take a look:

1. The finish line nears
Forty-nine down, two to go. The Phillies have just two series left this season, a three-gamer in Atlanta and then a set with the Mets at home to close it out. 

The Phils have a series record of 18-25-6. They have just six series wins in 21 tries since the All-Star break (6-12-3). 

The Phillies and Braves have played seven times in the second half and the Phils are 2-5 — they split a four-game series July 28-31 in Atlanta and were swept at home Sept. 2-4.

With 70 wins, the Phillies have already beaten their over-under by four victories. If they manage to split these final six games, they'll finish 10 games better than they did in 2015.

The Braves, meanwhile, will avoid 100 losses. That didn't look possible when they were 33-66 and on pace for 109 losses. But Atlanta has been much better the last six weeks, especially offensively.

2. Freeman's monstrous year
Whether it was the addition of Matt Kemp or just regression to his true talent level, Freddie Freeman has been a force of nature this summer.

Freeman started slowly. Through June 12, he was hitting .242 with a .750 OPS in 61 games. Since then? He's hit .347/.445/.673 with 33 doubles, five triples, 23 homers and 69 RBIs in 91 games. The Braves are just three games under .500 over that span at 44-47.

It's pretty amazing that Freeman has had an MVP-caliber season in a lineup that offers so little protection. This has been the best year of his seven-year career. In 669 plate appearances, he's hit .305/.402/.570 with 43 doubles, six triples, 32 homers and 87 RBIs. He's also walked 86 times. 

Freeman's best work this year has come against the Phillies. In 16 games, he's gone 22 for 60 (.367) with a .449 OBP, five doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs.

3. The push toward 200
Jerad Eickhoff makes his 32nd start of the season tonight and will likely have one more on the final day. He enters tonight's game with 187⅓ innings pitched, 12⅔ shy of the 200-inning benchmark every pitcher seeks.

Eickhoff said early in the summer that 200 innings would be meaningful to him and acknowledged it just sounds different than 195. It's taken health, stamina and consistency for Eickhoff to get to this point at age 26 in his first full big-league season.

Eickhoff (11-14, 3.75 ERA) has made six consecutive quality starts. He's steadied the Phillies' rotation for four months now. Since May 22, Eickhoff is 10-8 with a 3.52 ERA, but if you remove the one dreadful outing at hitter-friendly Coors Field, his ERA over that span is 3.13. He very well could be the opening day starter in 2017.

Eickhoff has faced the Braves five times in his career and gone 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. 

Freeman is 5 for 14 against him with a double and a homer, but all other active Braves have hit a combined .209 with no extra-base hits in more than 75 plate appearances.

4. Last look at Teheran
The Phillies take on talented Braves right-hander Julio Teheran for the third time this season and 15th time in his six-year career.

Could it be their last time seeing him in an Atlanta uniform? That's always a possibility for the rebuilding Braves with Teheran, who has long been an intriguing trade candidate. A 25-year-old with a 3.37 career ERA and one of the more team-friendly contracts in baseball, Teheran figures to have immense trade value this offseason. He's due $31 million over the next three seasons in a sport where pitchers half as talented now earn similar average annual salaries.

If Teheran is eventually dealt for a package of prospects, the Phillies won't be sad to see him go. He's 7-4 with a 2.31 ERA and has allowed just five home runs to them in 89⅔ career innings. His starts against the Phillies the last three years have been even better: 6-2, 1.39 ERA, 56 strikeouts, 13 walks, one homer allowed in 71 innings.

His last time out, Teheran allowed just one run over seven innings to the Mets but struck out only one batter. He hasn't missed many bats lately, generating just three swings-and-misses in his last start and six two outings before that.

Teheran has five pitches but mostly uses a four-seam fastball/slider combination. When he last faced the Phillies on Sept. 4, 90 of his 119 pitches were four-seamers or sliders.

Current Phillies have hit .219 collectively against Teheran in 169 at-bats. Freddy Galvis has seen him the best, going 7 for 18 (all singles) with three walks. Ryan Howard has two doubles and two solo homers off Teheran in 26 ABs.

5. This and that
• File this one under stats nobody would have predicted: The Braves have the highest on-base percentage in the majors since the All-Star break at .346. The Phillies are fifth-worst at .306.

• In 50 games with Atlanta, Kemp has hit .287/.341/.508 with 13 doubles, 10 homers and 35 RBIs. He had 16 walks in 100 games with the Padres and has 18 in half as many games with the Braves. His poor defense has still made him a net negative player this season (if you believe in WAR), but the Braves are 26-24 since acquiring him.

• If the season ended today, the Phillies would have the ninth pick in next June's draft. Based on the records of the teams around them, they are a near lock to pick either 8th, 9th or 10th.

MLB Notes: Bag of signed Jose Fernandez baseballs wash up near site of fatal crash

MLB Notes: Bag of signed Jose Fernandez baseballs wash up near site of fatal crash

MIAMI — As the baseball world mourned the death of Jose Fernandez, a beachgoer found a bag containing four baseballs signed by the Marlins 24-year-old pitcher.

WSVN-TV reports a black bag containing Jose Fernandez's checkbook and four autographed baseballs apparently washed ashore on Miami Beach not far from the site the pitcher's boat slammed into a jetty early Sunday. Fernandez and two friends were killed.

Ocean Rescue Division Chief Vincent Canosa tells WSVN the bag was given to a lifeguard and that it apparently came from the boat.

Fernandez had been scheduled to start Monday night's game against the New York Mets. Instead, his teammates honored him in an emotional pre-game ceremony. The players took the field, tears in their eyes, wearing black jerseys with the number 16 and Fernandez's name on back.

Rangers: Brother of Yu Darvish convicted on gambling charges
TOKYO — A Japanese court on Tuesday convicted the brother of Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish of gambling on baseball games, handing him a suspended prison sentence.

The Osaka District Court found Sho Darvish guilty of taking hundreds of bets on Major League Baseball and on professional baseball games in Japan last year.

The court said the 27-year-old younger brother of Yu Darvish was sentenced to two years and four months in prison, but it was suspended for five years. The court said the defendant's gambling was limited to his group of friends and was not linked to organized crime, according to local media reports.

The younger Darvish took bets of 10,000 yen ($100) on Japanese and American professional baseball games, accepting wagers totaling about 110 million yen ($1.1 million) through the LINE social networking application, Kyodo News reported.

Sho Davsish himself bet roughly 220 million yen ($2.2 million) on the games, Kyodo said.

His arrest last year led to an investigation of his brother, Yu Darvish, but the authorities found no involvement by the Rangers star.

Sho Darvish reportedly said during his trial that he regretted causing trouble to his family and that he planned to change his surname to make their relationship less obvious.

But on Tuesday, judge Hajime Hashimoto reportedly advised Darvish that what should change are his actions, not his name.