Strong outings from Hamels, Giles end Phils' skid

usa-colehamels-phillies-brewers.png

Strong outings from Hamels, Giles end Phils' skid

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE -- There will come a time in the coming weeks and months when the Phillies will reach an inevitable transition stage. Personnel changes will be made as the Phils try to reverse their losing ways and become a contender again.

No matter what changes are made, it seems likely that Cole Hamels will stick around. Sure, the Phils will listen to offers for the 30-year-old lefty -- and if they’re blown away, well, you never know -- but at this moment it seems more likely that Hamels will be the nucleus that they build around.

Reliever Ken Giles is one of the players the Phils will use to build around Hamels.

So, in some ways, Monday night offered a little glimpse of the future. Hamels pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and the power-armed Giles got four big outs in crunch time to preserve a one-run lead as the Phillies beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-2, at Miller Park (see Instant Replay)

Hamels’ goal is always to pitch a complete game, but he had no qualms handing the ball to the 23-year-old Giles with two outs in the seventh and two men on base.

“He’s very impressive,” Hamels said. “Any time you know he’s coming in the ballgame you can definitely sit back and watch and know that you’re in good hands because he’s got amazing stuff.

“You can kind of tell with his presence out there he really wants to get the job done and he’s confident with what he’s got. He doesn’t have that fear, that uncertainty. He’s good. He’s going to be somebody that’s going to be in the back of that bullpen for a really long time for the Phillies and he’s going to put up some good numbers.”

Giles already has put up good numbers in his month in the majors. In 11 2/3 innings, he has allowed four hits and one run. (That run came in his first inning.) He has registered 17 strikeouts and walked just three.

Monday night’s assignment was Giles’ toughest yet in the majors. Milwaukee’s lineup was stacked with right-handed bats, so manager Ryne Sandberg used Giles in the tight situation instead of lefty Jake Diekman.

The Brewers are an aggressive, fastball-hitting team, so Giles featured his slider early in the eighth inning. He had trouble throwing it for strikes early in the inning and paid for it by falling behind in the count and giving up a double to Ryan Braun to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Eventually, Giles got the handle on his slider and located his fastball well enough to get out of the inning. It also helped that Brewers pinch-runner Logan Schafer made a costly baserunning error in a one-run game.

“In a 3-2 game, it was probably his biggest moment yet, facing the heart of the order in that situation,” Sandberg said of Giles.

Giles remains unfazed by his early success. He does not appear to be a guy who thinks too much and sometimes that can be a good thing.

“That’s what I’ve been prepared to do the whole time I’ve been here,” he said. “All I’ve tried to do is get outs. I don’t try to do too much.

“I don’t think it’s easy. I just prepare for each game. I study the hitters and try to carry out what I’m trying to do.”

The Phillies had entered the game with one win in the previous six games on this trip. They were hitting .170 in those six games. That led an unhappy GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to threaten changes before Monday night’s game (see story).

Amaro’s words may have resonated -- at least for a while -- in the Phillies’ clubhouse because Chase Utley staked the Phillies to a 2-0 lead with a home run in the first inning and Ryan Howard made it a 3-0 lead with an RBI single in the third. It was the first time the Phils led by three runs since June 24, a span of 14 games.

It was just Utley’s second extra-base hit in the last 23 games.

For Howard, it was just his second RBI in the last 18 games.

The Phillies’ offense went into shutdown mode after the third inning, but the pitching was able to make the lead stand up for just the team’s second win in the last 11 games.

Hamels, long a victim of poor run support, was thrilled to get the early two-run homer from Utley.

“OK, I have something to work with,” he said. “But I still have to put up zeroes.

“My job is to go out there, pitch deep into the game, prevent runs and keep the lead. It was good to be able to do that.”

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

usa-yordano-ventura-andy-marte-crash.jpg
USA Today Images

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former major leaguer Andy Marte died in separate traffic accidents early Sunday in their native Dominican Republic.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo said Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. It was not clear if Ventura was driving.

Metropolitan traffic authorities say Marte died when the Mercedes Benz he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.

Ventura, 25, burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He was a fierce competitor always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound.

He went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and the next year he helped the long-downtrodden Royals reach the World Series for the first time since 1985. He proceeded to dominate San Francisco in both of his starts, though the Royals would ultimately lose in seven games.

"Our prayers right now are with Yordano's family as we mourn this young man's passing," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a statement. "He was so young and so talented, full of youthful exuberance and always brought a smile to everyone he interacted with. We will get through this as an organization, but right now is a time to mourn and celebrate the life of Yordano."

Born June 3, 1991, in Samana, Dominican Republic, Ventura quit school at 14 and was laboring on a construction crew to support his family when he heard about a tryout, which led to a spot in the Royals' academy on the island.

The right-handed Ventura went 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA last season, and wound up pitching his entire career for the Royals, going 38-31 with a 3.89 ERA.

Fans began arriving at Kauffman Stadium shortly after Ventura's death was announced, leaving flowers, hats and other mementos outside the stadium. Flags outside the ballpark also were lowered to half-staff.

Marte, a 33-year-old infielder, played in the Major Leagues from 2005-2010 with Atlanta and Cleveland and returned in 2014 with Arizona. He hit .218 with 21 home runs and 99 RBIs in the big leagues. He spent the last two seasons in South Korea, where he hit 22 homers last year.

Both Ventura and Marte were part of the Dominican winter league team Aguilas Cibaenas, though neither was playing this season.

"We have awoken this Sunday with this sad news that we have lost a special being," club president Winston Llenas said in a statement about Marte that was issued before Ventura's death became known.

Ventura is the second young star pitcher to die in past four months. Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, 24, was among three men killed in a boating accident in September.

Two other active Dominican baseball players have died on the country's dangerous highways in recent years.

St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Oscar Taveras -- a close friend of Ventura -- died in 2014 when he crashed in his hometown of Puerto Plata. He was 22. Shortstop Andujar Cedeno died at age 31 in a 2000 crash in the city of La Romana.

A 2015 study by the World Health Organization found that the Dominican Republic had the highest traffic accident death rate in the Americas, with a rate of 29.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.