Hamels strikes out Victorino in solid outing vs. Red Sox

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Hamels strikes out Victorino in solid outing vs. Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Phillies opening day starter Cole Hamels faced a Red Sox lineup Thursday night that closely resembled Boston’s opening day lineup. Hamels held the Red Sox to one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings. He threw 81 pitches, 53 for strikes.
 
Hamels’ outing went for naught, though, as the Red Sox scored five runs off right-hander Michael Stutes in the eighth to win, 6-1.
 
The Phillies got a run off Red Sox starter John Lackey in the first inning, when Pete Orr singled and Jimmy Rollins doubled with one out. Michael Young’s groundout scored Orr.
 
Hamels gave up a run in the second after Will Middlebrooks led off with a double and Jonny Gomes singled. Daniel Nava’s sacrifice fly to Laynce Nix in left scored Middlebrooks.
 
Hamels had runners on base in every inning but the fourth -- including when he allowed two-out baserunners in the first and third -- but limited the Red Sox offense. After a two-out walk to Dustin Pedroia in the first, he got Mike Napoli to fly out to Ben Revere in center. After Pedroia’s two-out single in the third, he struck out Napoli.
 
In the fifth, Sox No. 9 hitter Jose Iglesias reached on a bunt-single with one out. But, after striking out Jacoby Ellsbury, Hamels picked Iglesias off first to end the inning.
 
Hamels started his final frame striking out former teammate Shane Victorino looking on a curveball, the only one of  Hamels’ five strikeouts that was called.
 
“Actually, that's probably one of the best ones I've thrown in a really long time,” Hamels said. “Even with last season. So I guess I'll have to hear from him, because I know he's obviously not used to seeing me throw that, even though he was out in center field.
 
“He might just be silent,” Hamels joked of the loquacious Victorino.
 
Hamels was satisfied with his changeup and curveball. Facing a lineup that was representative of the regular season gave him a good read on his pitches.
 
“Now that we're kind of playing more of the big-time guys, guys' swings are obviously a lot better,” he said. “I think that's kind of a pitch, or pitches, that I definitely need to have down. Because I struggled with it early on, now it's building up the pitch count, able to kind of work for more innings, opposed to throwing only four or five when you have 30 or 40 pitches. Now I'm able to throw it like it's a game situation. I've got a really good feel on it. I still think I got away with some early on because I was doing something with my mechanics. Then I fixed it later on. I was able to get the action on my changeup and then my curveball's coming really well, too. It's not bad.”
 
Hamels’ next outing is scheduled for Tuesday, his last spring training start before opening day against the Braves.
 
“I think my body's starting to catch up,” Hamels said. “Just with, you build up the pitch count every five days, you build up the pitch count and you're still working out as hard as you possibly can so your body's not catching up. Obviously, as spring goes on your body starts to kind of get going. It always helps with the extra adrenaline. I think you get more zip on your ball.
 
“The speed will come once we get into the normal big-league season.”
 
Getting a start under the lights at this point in the spring, as he did against the Sox, helps in getting ready for the regular season, too, he said.
 
“It does. You're starting to look at the clock become a little more familiar,” he said. “Getting in the routine, which is huge. And that's just, that's how you get comfortable and that's how you go out and are able to execute and be the pitcher I'm capable of and everybody knows I'm capable of.”
 
The Red Sox got five runs in the seventh off Stutes. With two outs, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Nava walked. Iglesias grounded to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, whose toss to second baseman Freddy Galvis was late. Matty Johnson, running for Saltalamacchia, went home, beating the throw from Galvis.
 
After another walk to Ellsbury, Victorino’s triple to right scored three runs, ending Stutes’ outing. Michael Nesseth entered, giving up a double to Pedroia, scoring Victorino.
 
Left-hander Jeremy Horst pitched a scoreless eighth, giving up one hit.

Notes
• Outfielder Delmon Young, recovering from offseason ankle surgery, took balls in the outfield and ran the bases during workouts in Clearwater. Young will open the season on the disabled list. Team officials have estimated that he could be ready to be activated in mid- to late-April.
 
• The Phillies host the Atlanta Braves in Clearwater on Friday afternoon. Lefty pitching prospect Adam Morgan will come up from minor-league camp to make the start. The Phils needed a starter because Roy Halladay, recovering from a stomach bug, has been pushed back a day. He will pitch in a minor-league game Saturday.
 
• Catcher Carlos Ruiz was hit on the left hand with two outs in the ninth inning by a pitch from Anthony Carter. His condition was not known after the game.
 
• Galvis went 2 for 3 with a triple, the only Phillies batter with multiple hits.
 
• On seeing and facing former teammate Victorino, Hamels said:
 
“I think you're going to miss his personality and especially how good he is in the outfield. But, you just know it's baseball and I'm trying to get the guy out no matter if I’m good friends with him or not. But he is, he's always been a good friend. I was just trying to get him out because now it's bragging rights. You don't ever want a guy to get the bragging rights on you.
 
“Outside the lines, we were joking around, talking to each other. I think when I get between the lines I want to win. I don't care who I'm facing. Even if it's my mom or my brother or something. I'm trying to get him out. So, it is. It's serious business. I love obviously that I'm able to go out there. You just want to be the best no matter who you're facing.”

• Hamels on his beard: “No, it's not going to stay. … It's getting annoying. Getting food on it. I'm like, ‘Geez, no wonder my dad never had a beard.’ No one in my family's ever had a beard.”

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson had his first career three-homer game, Troy Tulowitzki also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 9-6 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Donaldson hit a solo homer off Kyle Gibson in the second, then delivered a go-ahead, two-run blast off Pat Light (0-1) in the seventh.

Dozens of fans tossed hats onto the field to celebrate the home run hat trick after Donaldson, the AL MVP in 2015, hit a solo shot off Alex Wimmers in the eighth. Groundskeepers and even the Blue Jays mascot helped clear the hats away.

Donaldson's fourth multi-homer game this season and the 10th of his career also marked the 17th three-homer game in the majors this season.

Jose Bautista had his first three-hit game of the season for the AL East-leading Blue Jays.

Minnesota lost its season-worst 10th straight. The Twins have lost seven straight in Toronto.

Scott Feldman (7-4) earned the win by getting two outs in the seventh. Jason Grilli worked the eighth and Roberto Osuna finished (see full recap). 

Pirates win 8th straight on road, sweep Brewers 3-1
MILWAUKEE -- Ivan Nova threw six sharp innings before leaving early because of a hurting left hamstring and the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three solo homers to rally past the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Sunday for their eighth straight road victory.

John Jaso and Gregory Polanco each homered in the sixth off Brewers starter Chase Anderson (7-11) to complete Pittsburgh's first sweep at Miller Park since 2004. Starling Marte added a solo shot in the eighth.

Nova (4-0) retired 10 of his final 11 batters after allowing Jonathan Villar's solo homer in the third. He scattered three hits and struck out four before being pinch hit for in the seventh.

Tony Watson pitched a clean ninth for his 10th save in 13 opportunities (see full recap).

Archer strikes out 10, Rays hit 3 HRs in 10-4 win vs Astros
HOUSTON -- Chris Archer struck out 10 in seven innings, Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros 10-4 on Sunday.

Matt Duffy and Nick Franklin also went deep for the last-place Rays, who have homered in 21 of their last 24 games.

Houston, in the hunt for an AL wild card, had won three straight.

Archer (8-17) gave up three runs and four hits with two walks. With his strikeout of A.J. Reed in the sixth, the right-hander joined David Price and James Shields as the only Tampa Bay pitchers with multiple 200-strikeout seasons.

The Rays jumped out early against Doug Fister.

Fister (12-9) allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, the fourth time in his past seven starts he has permitted four or more runs (see full recap). 

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A.J. Ellis’ first game as a Phillie certainly went a lot better than Carlos Ruiz’s first game as a Dodger.

Ellis’ first hit with his new club helped the Phils salvage one game of a weekend series with the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies won it, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), behind a solid start from Vince Velasquez, excellent bullpen work and Ellis’ big hit, a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the seventh.

The Phillies had lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 21-5. Their pitchers gave up eight homers in the first two games.

On Sunday, Velasquez and a quartet of relievers held the Mets to seven hits, all singles.

Ellis joined the Phillies just 24 hours earlier after being traded from the Dodgers on Thursday. He had been with that club his whole career.

Ruiz, of course, had been with the Phillies his whole career.

Ruiz’s first game with the Dodgers did not go nearly as smooth. The veteran catcher had trouble handling the pitches of closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Friday night and that contributed to the Dodgers blowing a one-run lead and losing to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings.

Leaving the Dodgers was difficult and emotional for Ellis. He was able to bury himself in the game Sunday and came away feeling pretty good.

“It’s just great to be playing baseball again,” he said, standing in front of his locker, a blue Dodgers equipment bag (that will soon be swapped out for a Phillies bag) at his feet. “You kind of lose yourself in the competition and then just play again.

“Regardless of what’s happened in the last four days, it feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win.”

During his 24 or so hours with the Phillies, Ellis has immersed himself in learning a new staff of pitchers. He caught starters Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson in the bullpen before Saturday’s game and warmed up several relievers during that game.

On Sunday morning, he arrived at Citi Field, saw his name in the lineup and immediately began prepping to catch Velasquez, the hardest-thrower on the Phillies’ starting staff.

Velasquez bounced back from three poor outings in which he gave up 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings and held a hot Mets lineup to a run over five innings. The only negative was that Velasquez could not pitch deeper into the game because his command was poor and needed 103 pitches to complete the five innings.

Nonetheless, Ellis, who was the personal catcher for Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, liked what he saw of Velasquez.

“His pitch count got elevated the first two innings and he was able to grind through the last three,” Ellis said. “The stuff is electric. He has so many weapons, so many options. When he keeps growing and keeps polishing that gift up, it’s going to be really, really special.

“So I’m excited to be able to continue to work with him, excited to work with him and (pitching coach) Bob McClure and (No. 1 catcher) Cameron Rupp, kind of talk to them about things, things he sees, things we see, and together we can build a plan for him going forward in his career.”

Two things are going to help the 24-year-old Velasquez reach his potential.

First is good health. He’s had arm problems in the past and there remain concerns about his long-term durability. That’s why the Phillies are closely monitoring his workload as this season winds down.

Second is command, control, economy of pitches – whatever you want to call it. Velasquez needs to be more efficient. Too many times he’s left games in the middle innings because of a high pitch count.

“Definitely,” he responded when asked if lowering his pitch counts and working deeper into games was the key to his improvement. “It’s going to help the longevity, it saves the bullpen, it helps out everybody. Not just on my end, but the whole team in general.

“And,” he joked, “then I can also work on my swing by getting some more at-bats.”

Despite the high pitch count, Velasquez walked just one. He struck out seven. He is up to 129 innings for the season. That includes five innings in a rehab game at Double A Reading. The Phillies will look to keep him at about 150 innings for the season. That could be three, four or five more starts, depending on how long the right-hander lasts. He’s averaged just over five innings in his starts this season.

“I think that would be the right move,” Velasquez said of the 150-inning target.

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Mets 1

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, Mets 1

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK – The Phillies salvaged one win on an otherwise lost weekend in Queens when they beat the New York Mets, 5-1, on Sunday afternoon.
 
A.J. Ellis, acquired from the Dodgers on Thursday in the Carlos Ruiz deal, had the game’s big-hit, a two-run double to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh. It was his first hit with the club.
 
The Phillies lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 21-5.
 
The win left the Phils at 60-70 for the season. They are three wins shy of last year’s majors-low total of 63.
 
Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez gave up just one run, but only lasted five innings because he threw 103 pitches. Despite the high pitch count, Velasquez walked just one. He struck out seven. All in all, it was an improvement from his previous three starts when he allowed 19 runs in 17⅓ innings.
 
Mets right-hander Robert Gsellman gave up four runs in six-plus innings in his first big-league start. He allowed just one run through his first six innings but failed to get an out in being charged with three runs in the seventh.
 
Bullpen report
The Phillies' bullpen was excellent.
 
David Hernandez pitched a scoreless sixth inning. Edubray Ramos followed with a scoreless seventh. Hector Neris notched a scoreless eighth and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.
 
For the Mets, Hansel Robles was brought on to face Ellis with the bases loaded in the seventh and promptly gave up a game-changing double.
 
At the plate
Tommy Joseph, Aaron Altherr and Jimmy Paredes all singled to load the bases for Ellis in the seventh. Parades doubled home the Phillies’ first run in fourth.
 
Health check
Double A Reading outfielder Roman Quinn is back on the disabled list after suffering a concussion Saturday night. Quinn recently returned from a stint on the DL with an oblique injury. His status for the Eastern League playoffs and a possible September call up is unclear.
 
Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera left the game in the first inning with a sore left knee. He appeared to injure himself avoiding a tag at first base. Cabrera had three homers in the first two games of the series.
 
ICYMI
Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson will remain with the Phillies for the rest of the season (see story).
 
Up next
The Phillies return home Monday night to open a three-game series against the Washington Nationals. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Monday night – RHP Jake Thompson (1-3, 9.78) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (13-7, 2.99)
 
Tuesday night – RHP Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92)
 
Wednesday night – LHP Adam Morgan (1-8, 6.50) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-9, 4.25)