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.”

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies (11-10) at Dodgers (12-12)
9:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end out west Friday night. The beauty of baseball is that you have a chance to start a new streak a day later. Zach Eflin looks to avenge a poor performance from last season while the Dodgers send out veteran righty Brandon McCarthy at home.

Here are five things to know for Saturday evening's game.

1. Two strong starts for Eflin
In his second season as a big-league starter, Eflin is off to a lot better start than last year. 

If you remember his MLB debut, he gave up eight runs and retired just eight batters against a Blue Jays team that could hit the snot out of the ball … and did. Through two starts, Eflin had a 10.80 ERA and two losses to his résumé before coming into his own over the next two months.

This year has been just about the opposite. Eflin clearly looks comfortable on a major-league mound. He's turned Clay Buchholz's spot in the rotation into a positive. He's allowed just three runs and one home run in 12 innings, good for a 2.25 ERA.

The modern thinking is that an ideal pitcher strikes out a lot of batters, avoids walks and home runs, and induces weak contact. Eflin has done all but the strikeouts. His sinker has been marvelous and the Mets/Braves had little chance to do damage against it. Pete Mackanin described the sinker as a bowling ball. That just about says it all. The sinker won't induce that many swings and misses — thus the lack of strikeouts — but he can throw it in the zone and keep hitters off balance.

The Dodgers kind of ended Eflin's season last year. In reality, it was dueling knee injuries that did Eflin in (see story), but the Dodgers were the last team to take advantage of an ailing Eflin, hitting three home runs and scoring seven runs in just three innings Aug. 8. Even the outs in that game were generally line drives. Chase Utley, Yasmani Grandal and Corey Seager — all of whom could be in the lineup Saturday — took the now-23-year-old righty deep.

Being a righty against the Dodgers isn't all that advantageous as the team boasts those three hitters and Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew Toles and Cody Bellinger as lefties who can put up disruptive plate appearances. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they have a rotation full of righties and are unable to take advantage of the Dodgers' platoon issues.

2. Dodgers send out resurgent righty
The first two seasons of Brandon McCarthy's deal with the Dodgers essentially went by the wayside. Now, the 33-year-old starter is picking up where he left off in 2014.

McCarthy has long been one of the more entertaining and thoughtful players in baseball, as evidenced by his Twitter account. The veteran righty has also been a steadily average to occasionally above-average pitcher in 12 MLB seasons, bouncing around teams mostly on the west coast. He posted career-worst numbers with the Diamondbacks in the first half of 2014, but he rebounded in the second half with the Yankees, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 90 innings despite the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

He parlayed that second half into a four-year, $48 million deal with the Dodgers and that was almost immediately derailed by Tommy John surgery. Going into 2017, he had thrown just 63 innings and made only 13 starts in the first half of his contract. McCarthy was one of many Dodgers pitchers on the disabled list during a 2016 with a record-setting number of injuries for the club.

But now he's apparently back to form and, perhaps most importantly, he's healthy. He's made it through four starts unscathed this year and is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA to boot. He's allowed just 18 hits in 24 innings. Similar to Eflin, he relies primarily on a dynamic sinker that sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He also features a low 90s cutter and an 80 mph curveball, both of which grade out well this season.

Only three current Phillies have any history vs. McCarthy. With his history in the AL West with the Mariners, Michael Saunders has faced McCarthy plenty with sub-par results, going 2 for 13 with five strikeouts. Freddy Galvis is 3 for 3 off the righty while Andres Blanco is 0 for 1.

3. How does the Dodgers' bullpen stack up?
Going into Friday's action, the Dodgers' bullpen had a 3.15 collective ERA, good for eighth in all of baseball and second-best in the National League. As a whole, the crew strikes out 10.29 batters per nine innings and has the highest wins above replacement of any bullpen in baseball.

Any conversation about the Dodgers' 'pen starts with Kenley Jansen, one of the premier closers in the game today. He overwhelms hitters with a cutter many consider reminiscent of Mariano Rivera. It isn't quite up to Rivera's level, but it is still wildly effective. He has a 2.16 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings this season, locking down six saves in six chances. He dominated the Phillies on Friday night.

Setting up for him primarily is righty flamethrower Pedro Baez. Baez pitches with a dreadfully slow pace but great results, striking out batters at a similar clip and takes a 1.08 ERA into the weekend. Righty Josh Fields and lefty Grant Dayton each hadn't allowed a run this year before Fields let one up in the eighth inning Friday while lefty Luis Avilan has been effective primarily vs. lefties. 

While Chris Hatcher and Ross Stripling, both righties, each has a loss this season, they've still achieved OK results pitching often in low leverage situations. The biggest disappointment for Los Angeles has been the offseason signing of former Giants closer Sergio Romo. The 34-year-old has a 10.57 ERA through 10 appearances and has walked as many batters as he's struck out. If the Phillies get to face Romo in a big situation this weekend, it'll be a tremendous opportunity to do some damage.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis takes a 10-game hitting streak into action on Saturday night. Not only does he have good numbers off McCarthy, he's also simply off to the best start to his career. The Phillies' shortstop has traditionally been a better second half hitter but he has a career-best .269 average and .487 slugging percentage thus far.

Dodgers: While he is currently playing corner outfield, rookie Cody Bellinger is the Dodgers' first baseman of the future. Currently the No. 10 prospect in baseball, he had five home runs in Triple A Oklahoma City and is projected to have legitimate in-game power at the major league level. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies went 2-4 vs. the Dodgers last season and haven't won a series at Dodger Stadium since April 21-24, 2014, when they took three of four.

• Frequent trade partners in recent history, the Phillies and Dodgers have teamed up for eight trades since the 2012 trade deadline. Eflin himself came to the Phillies in the 2014 Jimmy Rollins trade.

• McCarthy is typically at his worst in April. He has a 5.01 ERA for March/April in his career, his worst for any month. However, he pitched well the two times he faced the Phillies. He threw eight shutout innings in 2013 and gave up two runs while striking out 12 in seven innings during the 2014 season.

Pain-free, Zach Eflin is ready to climb Dodger Stadium mound again

Pain-free, Zach Eflin is ready to climb Dodger Stadium mound again

LOS ANGELES — What Zach Eflin remembers most about his last start at Dodger Stadium isn't so much the result, it's the long walk he took up the corridor behind the dugout to the visiting clubhouse.
 
It hurt.
 
Physically.
 
Eflin lasted only three innings in that game on Aug. 8 of last season. He gave up seven hits, three of which were home runs, and seven runs before walking gingerly to the clubhouse, his night and his season over.
 
"I remember feeling pain as I walked to the trainer's room," he said Friday.
 
Eflin will be feeling no pain when he returns to the Dodger Stadium mound Saturday night. He had dealt with chronic tendinitis in his knees for years. The flare-up that affected his performance and forced him to leave the game the last time he pitched in Dodger Stadium hastened his decision to have offseason surgery — on both knees — to fix the problem.
 
"Surgery was always something off in the distance," the 23-year-old pitcher said. "But after that night, we sat down and talked about it. It was absolutely a good thing that we took care of it at that point, do it while I'm young, make sure it's a 2016 injury and not a career injury."
 
Team physician Steven Cohen performed the surgeries six weeks apart in August and September and Eflin says, "I feel completely rejuvenated. It's like night and day."
 
The surgical procedures, Eflin said, involved Cohen cutting a two-inch vertical incision over the middle of the kneecap.
 
"He cleaned out some dead tissue and little tears," Eflin said. "He drilled some holes in the kneecap, moved some stuff around and glued it all down."
 
Obviously, that's not a scientific description of the surgeries, but all that matters to Eflin is, "I feel great now."
 
Eflin got in on the ground floor of the Phillies' rebuild. He came to the Phils in the first trade that the team made after embarking on its rebuild after the 2014 season, the one that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. Eflin was actually a San Diego Padres prospect as the trade was going down. The Phillies targeted him and got him in what was ostensibly a three-team deal. Eflin was a Dodger for about 20 minutes before joining the Phillies' organization.
 
The Phillies took it easy with Eflin out of the gate this season, giving him a little extra time to get used to his new knees. He has made two starts with the big club and given up just three runs in 12 innings. His last start was excellent — seven innings of three-hit, one-run, no-walk, three-strikeout ball in a 5-2 win over Atlanta.
 
Eflin would like to duplicate that effort as he returns to the Dodger Stadium mound Saturday night. He will be opposed by right-hander Brandon McCarthy.
 
"I'm ready to go and take care of business," he said. "I'm excited to take the mound healthy."