Hamels, Phillies blank Reds to snap losing skid

ap-phillies-hamels-nieves.jpg

Hamels, Phillies blank Reds to snap losing skid

BOX SCORE

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."

Phillies 10, Blue Jays 3: Jeremy Hellickson limbers up, offense continues to hit

Phillies 10, Blue Jays 3: Jeremy Hellickson limbers up, offense continues to hit

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Jeremy Hellickson did not shine in his spring debut Sunday, but he didn’t have to.

Hellickson projects to be the Phillies' opening day starter for the second straight year, but with five weeks to go before it all starts for real in Cincinnati, he has plenty of time to put a coat of polish on his game.

The right-hander knocked off some wintertime rust with two innings of work against the Toronto Blue Jays. He gave up four hits and two runs, walked one and did not strike out a batter.

"I felt great," Hellickson said. "I wasn't really commanding the fastball like I wanted, but my arm and my body felt good."

Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies last season and could have opted for free agency in the offseason. However, he surveyed the marketplace and determined he'd be better off taking the Phillies' qualifying offer of $17.2 million for 2017 and trying his luck on the free-agent market next season.

So he's betting on himself.

"That's kind of how I'm looking at it," he said. "It was easy to do that just with the way I felt last year. I think I can definitely repeat or exceed what I did last year."

The Phillies can't give Hellickson another qualifying offer after this season so it's quite possible they will look to deal him in July. But that won't necessarily be easy. The Phils had talks with a number of teams about Hellickson last July and were unable to consummate a deal. It will be tougher this July as Hellickson’s salary has jumped by $10 million. The Phillies may have to eat some of that salary to get a deal they like.

Hellickson was asked if he was ready for another summer of trade rumors.

"No," he said with a wry smile. "But I know it's coming."

He's holding out hope that the Phillies will play their way into contention and the front office keeps the rotation together. He believes it's possible.

"I think we have a really good team here," he said. "Hopefully we're the ones trading for guys at the deadline.

"I've been reading some stuff saying (Aaron) Nola is a No. 5 guy. If Nola's your No. 5 guy, you have a pretty good rotation. I definitely think one through five we can give six, seven, eight strong innings every time out. Then with the guys, we signed for the back of our bullpen, it'll make our jobs that much easier. The days we don't have it, I feel like we can hand it off to those guys after five or six. We're in pretty good shape."

The game
The Phillies beat the Jays, 10-3, on the strength of 13 hits and three Toronto errors. The Phils had eight hits in Saturday’s win over the Yankees.

Cam Perkins, Pedro Florimon and Daniel Nava all had two hits. Rhys Hoskins and Ryan Hanigan both walked twice. Andres Blanco homered. Brock Stassi doubled. Nick Williams had a hit, two RBIs and a walk. Power-hitting rightfielder Dylan Cozens stole two bases.

Cozens is a legitimate stolen-base threat. In addition to belting 40 homers at Double A Reading last season, he swiped 21 bags and was only caught once.

"You've got to like his tools," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's really an athletic guy. He's got good hands at the plate. I think he's going to hit because he doesn't have a lot of excess body movement. He hits a lot with his hands and I think in time he'll cut down on the strikeouts and he'll be an even better player. He looks like a solid defender, good hitting ability, a lot of power and some speed."

On the mound
Ben Lively and Alberto Tirado both pitched two scoreless innings and Pat Neshek and Michael Mariot had one each.

Up next
Jerad Eikchoff makes his spring debut when the Phillies host the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday afternoon.

Clay Buchholz will get the start Tuesday against Baltimore.

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies pitching prospect Nick Pivetta had one of those pinch-me moments Saturday.

He met his boyhood idol, Roy Halladay, at a charity event.

Someone had filled in Halladay that Pivetta had grown up in Canada and had regularly watched Toronto Blue Jays games on television. Pivetta loved watching Halladay pitch, as he talked about a few weeks ago here.

"I got to briefly shake his hand," Pivetta said Sunday morning. "He knew I was like a stalker. He said, 'Oh, right, you're the guy from British Columbia.'"

Halladay, who pitched for the Phils from 2010 to 2013, lives in the Clearwater area. Pivetta said he expected to speak more with Halladay in the coming days.

Halladay was honored at the 44th annual Clearwater For Youth banquet and Pivetta attended with a number of his teammates and Phillies officials. Phillies chairman David Montgomery and his wife Lyn were also honored for their charitable works.

Pivetta will pitch for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March.