Hamels struggles in Phillies' opening-day defeat

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Hamels struggles in Phillies' opening-day defeat

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ATLANTA -- It’s now safe to say there’s something about the first start of a season that just doesn’t sit right with Cole Hamels.

The 29-year-old lefty made his first career opening-day start on Monday night and it was not a good one. After a brilliant spring training in which he allowed just two earned runs and did not give up a homer in 19 innings, he was pounded by the Atlanta Braves in a 7-5 loss at Turner Field (see Instant Replay).

Hamels gave up seven hits and five runs in five innings. Five of the seven hits he allowed were for extra bases and three were homers -- booming homers -- accounting for four runs.

In his last five season debuts, Hamels has allowed 23 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings (9.55 ERA).

What gives?

“I don’t know,” he said. “You don’t want to (pitch poorly). You want to be able to pitch your best. It’s not like I go out there and try to lose.

“I try to win every game and get the team headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.

“I have to bear down in my next start and execute pitch after pitch after pitch.”

Can Hamels do that?

Of course, he can. After losing his debut to Miami last season, he won 10 of his next 12 decisions, including eight in a row.

Pitch execution was Hamels’ downfall on this night. He made a number of mistakes over the heart of the plate and paid for them.

“He wasn’t as sharp as he usually is,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He had trouble getting the ball out of the big part of the plate. At the same time, you have to give (the Braves) credit. They hit some balls hard.”

In the first inning, Hamels walked Jason Heyward with one out and then allowed a cannonading two-run homer to right to Freddie Freeman on a 2-1 fastball down the middle.

The home run brought the huge crowd of 51,456 to its feet. The crowd was loud and spirited all night and it definitely gave the Braves a lift.

In the second inning, Hamels grooved a 3-0 fastball to the first hitter, Dan Uggla, and he drove it out to left as the Braves took a 3-0 lead.

Hamels was surprised that Uggla had the green light.

“A little bit,” he said. “But if I make the right pitch then he rolls over on it and he looks bad. But unfortunately I guess I look bad in that case.”

Hamels gave up a double and an RBI single in the third and a solo homer to newcomer Justin Upton on a 1-2 cutter in the fifth.

Upton’s homer came after the Phils had made it a 4-3 game and chased Atlanta starter Tim Hudson in the fifth. Chase Utley’s two-run single was the big hit in the inning. The Phils had a chance to keep pouring it on after Hudson left, but lefty reliever Luis Avilan struck out Ryan Howard with two men in scoring position. Avilan then walked Michael Young intentionally before getting Domonic Brown on a ground ball to preserve the lead.

Atlanta cushioned its lead with two runs off Chad Durbin in the sixth. Durbin did not retire any of the three batters he faced.

“Every time we got close they pulled away and we couldn’t catch them,” Manuel said.

“We had opportunities to tie the game and we didn’t get the big hit,” Utley said. “The Braves are a good team. They have some power in their lineup and they showed it tonight.”

Playing for the first time on opening day since 2010, Utley was a bright spot in defeat. He had three hits, including his 200th career homer, and a triple, and drove in three runs.

“I’ve worked hard to get to this point,” said Utley, who constantly battles a degenerative knee condition to get on the field.

Another bright spot: Ben Revere’s magnificent 11-pitch at-bat, which helped wear down Hudson in the fifth. Revere batted leadoff (see story). He singled, walked and scored a run.

And so opening day is over. The Phillies are 0-1 with a day off Tuesday and Roy Halladay, coming off a shaky spring, on the mound Wednesday night.

“Obviously you want to win the first game,” Utley said. “But I think we have a few more to go. We’ll try to learn from this one and move on.”

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

Best of MLB: Rendon explodes for 3 homers, 10 RBIs in Nats' 23-5 win vs. Mets

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon had 10 RBIs, three home runs and six hits as the Washington Nationals took advantage of Noah Syndergaard's injury and mauled the New York Mets 23-5 on Sunday to set a franchise scoring record.

Rendon went a career-best 6 for 6 and scored five times while setting a club mark for RBIs. He became the 13th player in major league history to drive in 10 or more in a game, and first since Garret Anderson did it for the Angels in 2007.

Matt Wieters added two homers, a single and two walks as the Nationals salvaged the finale of a three-game series. Adam Lind and Bryce Harper also homered, and Harper scored four runs.

Washington finished with a season-high 23 hits and scored the most runs in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise. The Nationals' seven homers were their most since the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005 (see full recap).

Keuchel improves to 5-0 with dominant start vs. Astros
HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel threw 7 2/3 solid innings, Marwin Gonzalez hit a three-run home run and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 7-2 on Sunday.

Keuchel (5-0) struck out nine, while allowing one run on three hits and two walks. The left-hander has thrown at least seven innings in every outing this season. He became the second pitcher in Astros history to get five wins in April, joining Rogers Clemens, who went 5-0 in 2004.

After Trevor Plouffe doubled with one out in the first, Keuchel retired ten straight and 13 of the next 14 batters he faced.

Ken Giles earned his sixth save after getting Yonder Alonso to fly out with the bases loaded.

Jesse Hahn (1-2) gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts in six innings.

Gonzalez hit his home run off the right field foul pole in eighth (see full recap).

Miguel Sano's 5 RBIs help hand Royals 9th-straight loss
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Miguel Sano homered and drove in five runs, helping the Minnesota Twins beat slumping Kansas City 7-5 on Sunday for the Royals' ninth straight loss.

Sano posted his fourth consecutive multihit game. He has 11 hits in his last 16 at-bats. He drove in nine runs in the two-game, rain-abbreviated series.

Sano connected in the third after Jason Hammel (0-3) walked Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. He added run-producing singles in the fourth and sixth innings.

It's the longest slide for Kansas City since a 12-game skid in April 2012 (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

Instant Replay: Dodgers 5, Phillies 3

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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers hit two more home runs in beating the Phillies, 5-3, on Sunday afternoon.

The Dodgers swept the three-game series from the Phils, hitting seven homers in the final two games, including five on Saturday night. Three of those homers Saturday night came in the ninth inning, as the Dodgers rallied back from a three-run deficit to hang an excruciating loss on the Phils.
 
Sunday's loss was not as painful. The Phils got a leadoff triple from Cesar Hernandez and an RBI single from Freddy Galvis in the first inning then did not score again until the ninth.
 
The Dodgers out-hit the Phillies, 13-4, over the first eight innings.
 
The Phillies are 11-12 heading into Chicago to play the defending World Series champion Cubs.
 
Starting pitching report
Nick Pivetta allowed 10 baserunners in his big-league debut but managed to limit the damage to just two runs thanks to a couple of double plays, a couple of big strikeouts and a fortuitous bounce that turned a double into a ground-rule double, which meant a runner had to hold at third.
 
Four of the nine hits that Piverta allowed were for extra bases, including a homer by Chris Taylor that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the second. He walked one and struck out five.
 
Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Phillies to three hits and a run over 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out nine. He is 1-4.
 
Bullpen report
Jeanmar Gomez entered the game with the Phils trailing just 2-1 in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single, a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Chase Utley and a three-run homer to Andrew Toles as the Dodgers put the game away.
 
With Hector Neris unavailable after throwing 19 pitches in Saturday night's disaster, Mackanin was likely holding back right-handers Edubray Ramos and Pat Neshek for the late innings in case the Phils got a lead.
 
Gomez has a 9.64 ERA.
 
Kenley Jansen got the final out and the save for the Dodgers after Grant Dayton gave up a two-run, two-out homer in the ninth. Jansen struck out Hernandez on three pitches.

At the plate
Maikel Franco struck out three times, snapping a career-best streak of 32 straight plate appearances without a strikeout.

Galvis has hit in 12 straight games.

Odubel Herrera smacked a two-run homer in the ninth to make it a two-run game.
 
Justin Turner had seven hits in the series, and he didn't even start the second game. (He had a game-tying, pinch-hit homer in that one.) He had three hits Sunday, including an RBI single in the first inning.
 
Toles had two homers in the series.
 
On the bases
Cameron Rupp, who entered the day hitting .180, had a pair of doubles and a single but short-circuited a potential rally when he was picked off second by rival catcher Yasmani Grandal on a no-outs bunt play with the Phils down a run in the fifth.
 
In the field
Not only did Turner have a big series at the plate, he robbed Tommy Joseph of a hit in the seventh inning with a fabulous pick of a hot smash to third. Joseph needed the hit as he is slumping badly. He went hitless with two strikeouts and is hitting .179.
 
Up next
The Phillies move on to Chicago for four games against the defending World Series champion Cubs. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Monday night -- RHP Vince Velasquez (1-2, 6.33) vs. LHP Brett Anderson (2-0, 3.54)
 
Tuesday night -- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 1.80) vs. LHP Jon Lester (0-1, 3.68)
 
Wednesday night -- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-2, 3.56) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1, 4.66)
 
Thursday afternoon -- RHP Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.89) vs. RHP John Lackey (2-3, 5.10)