Hamels, Phillies blank Reds to snap losing skid

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Hamels, Phillies blank Reds to snap losing skid

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CINCINNATI -- Cole Hamels is well spoken but he can't explain his mastery over the Cincinnati Reds.

Hamels improved to 10-0 lifetime against Cincinnati, including a shutout victory in the 2010 Division Series, by pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the Phillies' 8-0 win over the Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

"It is hard to comprehend," Hamels said. "I just kind of associate this park and this team with good memories. Knowing when you have that matchup, even if there are different players, just gives me confidence."

Hamels made his major-league debut at Great American Ball Park and pitched five scoreless innings of one-hit baseball in that game on May 12, 2006.

"It is something you dream about as a little kid. It is a great memory and everlasting," Hamels said.

The win was just what the reeling Phillies needed after coming into the game with a six-game losing streak.

"Sometimes success against a team early in your career can last," reasoned first-year manager Ryne Sandberg, who was looking for a spark from somewhere to break the losing streak.

"We need two or three guys to step up," Sandberg said before the game.

He got them.

Veteran Chase Utley had four productive plate appearances out of five. He had three singles and was hit by a pitch.

Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who led the league with a 1.68 ERA coming into the game, picked Utley off first, leaving the bases empty with two outs in the fourth inning.

Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. picked their teammate and their team up.

Howard drew a walk. Byrd was also hit with a pitch but Brown delivered a big two-run double.

Brown was hitting a paltry .206 coming into the game but was hitting .333 with runners in scoring position.

"I think he has a good approach in those situations," Sandberg said. "He concentrates on hitting the other way and up the middle."

Brown believes that regular playing time will help him sustain that approach.

"I don't know if it's focus or what," Brown said. "I have been using that same approach for two weeks. It felt good to pick up my teammates. Good teams do that."

Jimmy Rollins contributed a solo home run off Cueto in the fifth inning, which was more than enough for Hamels, who scattered five hits.

The Phillies put the game out of reach with four runs in the ninth against the Reds' bullpen.

With the Phillies finding their stroke at the plate and getting a strong effort on the mound in the series opener, a trip to Cincinnati could prove to be just what the club needed ... again.

Hamels recalled another moment in Cincinnati from the 2007 season that helped turn the season around.

With the Phillies struggling as a team early that year, Hamels turned in his first career complete game on April 21. He allowed one run on five hits and struck out 15 Cincinnati batters.

"I remember the meeting that series," said Hamels of Charlie Manuel's team meeting that weekend. "I was young and didn't know what to say."

The Phillies turned the season around shortly thereafter and made the playoffs that season.

"We dug ourselves a pretty big hole this time," Hamels said of this season. "We have to keep grinding it out. It will take us a couple months."

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff

Hurts so good: Phillies win third straight with a wacky walkoff

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Brock Stassi's toe hurt.
 
Maikel Franco's ribs and head hurt.
 
Pain never felt so good.
 
The Phillies pulled off their most dramatic win of the young season when they rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, at chilly Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco completed a three-RBI night when he smacked a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single to right to give the Phillies the walk-off win. It was the Phillies' third straight win and fifth in the last seven games as they improved to 8-9 with a chance to sweep a series and even their record at .500 on Sunday afternoon.
 
Franco will be in the lineup.
 
But he might need a couple of Advil to get going.
 
After his game-winning hit, Franco was hilariously chased into right field by his euphoric teammates. The Phillies third baseman absorbed a beat down with Andres Blanco delivering a blow to the top of Franco's head.
 
"You see that -- boom!" Blanco said in the happy clubhouse after that game.  
 
Franco did more than see it.

He felt it.
 
"Whitey got me," he said, laughing and pointing to his head and ribs. "My body is screaming right now."
 
Across the clubhouse, Stassi was feeling Franco's pain. His foot got stepped on during the happy scrum.
 
"My toe is killing me," he said with a laugh.
 
Stassi, too, might need an Advil before Sunday's game. He has a good chance to be in the lineup at first base because Tommy Joseph seems like a candidate for a day off after a tough night. Joseph made a costly throwing error in the top of the 10th inning that helped the Braves take a 3-2 lead.
 
Stassi helped rescue the Phillies from that deficit. His 10th inning single was the first of three one-out hits that the Phils collected against Braves' closer Jim Johnson. With the bases loaded, Johnson made Odubel Herrera look bad with a swinging strikeout for the second out. That brought up Franco. New hitting coach Matt Stairs is constantly encouraging Franco to use the whole field and that's just what the cleanup man did in lacing a liner to the warning track in right.

"To right field! How 'bout that," manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
It was Franco's second single of the night. He would have been awarded a game-winning double if he had reached second base. But, alas, he was chased into right field.
 
In the clubhouse after the game, Franco was told by a club official that he could have had a double had he touched second.
 
Franco's eyes widened in disbelief.
 
"Ah, Mikey!" he said, scolding himself.
 
Then he laughed.
 
Across the clubhouse, Joseph could laugh about the miscue that saw him throw to an empty third base after a sacrifice bunt in the 10th. With everything moving fast, he mistook shortstop Freddy Galvis for a baserunner as Galvis streaked to cover third.
 
Joseph's error put a man on third and the Braves scored the go-ahead run on an infield hit.
 
The ironic part about Joseph's error was the Phillies played excellent defense -- Herrera and Aaron Altherr made great catches in the outfield and Galvis was Galvis at short -- until the 10th.
 
They pitched well, too, from starter Jerad Eickhoff's five innings of one-run ball to the stingy relief work of Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia and Pat Neshek. They teamed on three shutout innings.
 
With his top late-game tandem of Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris in need of a night off, Mackanin asked Edubray Ramos to close it out. Ramos struck out the first two batters in the ninth and was one out away from his first big-league save when Brandon Phillips unloaded on a hanging slider to tie the game at 2-2.
 
Ramos rebounded and got the final out of the inning. As he walked off the field, he covered his mouth with his glove and shouted. Best guess: He said a naughty word. But ultimately his teammates got him off the hook. Parts of it were pretty. Parts of it were ugly. But when the night was over, the Phillies had a win.
 
"It was really a wacky game," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We played well overall, then there was a flurry of activity at the end."
 
Mackanin reached for a bottle of water.
 
"I'm going to drink more of this Smart Water," he said. "It's a happy day."

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

Best of MLB: Gonzalez, Nationals beat Mets 3-1 for 6th straight win

NEW YORK -- Gio Gonzalez mentioned the tasty Latin food served in the visitors' clubhouse. And the airplanes that fly overhead. And the pretty features of the ballpark.

But if there's a real reason why the Washington lefty is so successful at Citi Field, he isn't saying.

"Any secrets?" he offered. "No."

Gonzalez pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning to win again at the Mets' stadium, and the Nationals beat New York 3-1 on a drizzly Saturday for their sixth straight victory (see full recap).

Contreras' slam powers Arrieta, Cubs to 12-8 win over Reds
CINCINNATI -- After a sputtering start, the Cubs' offense is finally rolling. And it's no surprise that they're breaking out at Great American Ball Park, a place that's just their style.

Wilson Contreras hit his first career grand slam and Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward added three-run shots on Saturday, powering Chicago to a 12-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Jake Arrieta (3-0) returned to the mound where he threw his second career no-hitter last April 21 and struggled mightily at the outset, giving up two homers in the first inning. Chicago's offense pulled him through with another homer-filled game at Great American Ball Park. Arrieta helped with an RBI triple (see full recap).

Homers by Mancini, Schoop carry Orioles past Red Sox 4-2
BALTIMORE -- Just when it appeared Steven Wright had finally gained command of his fluttering knuckleball, the Baltimore Orioles found their groove.

The result: Another early exit for the 2016 All-Star in Boston's 4-2 loss Saturday night.

Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop homered in succession off Wright, Jayson Aquino won his first big league start and the Orioles used one big inning to secure their fourth straight victory (see full recap).

Simmons belts grand slam to lead Angels past Blue Jays 5-4
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Andrelton Simmons hit a tiebreaking grand slam, Tyler Skaggs pitched into the eighth inning and the Los Angeles Angels held off the slumping Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 Saturday night.

Simmons cleared the bases in the third inning off Casey Lawrence (0-2) for his second career grand slam, helping the Angels snap a three-game losing streak and win for the second time in 11 games.

Skaggs (1-1) gave up a run in the first but settled down to hold the Blue Jays to five hits over the next six innings, getting the Blue Jays to hit into three double plays along the way. He was lifted after Ryan Goins doubled to lead off the eighth (see full recap).