Hamels dominates as Phils snap skid vs. Braves
Erik Kratz hasn’t caught too many games Cole Hamels has pitched, but after Tuesday night’s effort against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park, it’s something the Phillies’ catcher can get used to.
Working together in a game for the first time outside of spring training, Kratz helped guide the Phillies’ ace to a five-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Braves (see Instant Replay)
. For Hamels it was his first shutout since beating the Reds in Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS and his first in a regular-season game since Sept. 1, 2009 against the Giants.
As far as catching a major league game goes, Kratz had a pretty relaxing ride behind the plate on Tuesday night.
“It was easy,” Kratz said. “It wasn’t one thing he was doing really well, it was just that there wasn’t any one thing he wasn’t not doing really well. Everything across the board was consistent. He was attacking, he was getting ahead and when he didn’t get ahead he came right back. His pace was great. Like I said, it was easy.”
And this is coming from a guy who got a couple of stitches on his chin after taking a foul ball off the mask during the second inning of the game. Yes, he got some stitches and it was an easy game.
Still, the victory over the Braves may have been the Phillies’ best-pitched game of the season and possibly Hamels’ best performance since the three-hit shutout over the Reds in the Game 3 clincher in the NLDS. Hamels faced just two batters over the minimum and did not allow a single base runner to get past first base. Of the five hits Hamels allowed, three of the runners were erased on the base paths with two coming on double plays and a third on a magnificent throw by Dom Brown in the far left-field corner to take away a would-be double.
“The Braves have a dangerous lineup so you have to limit your mistakes,” Hamels understated. “I was able to execute my pitches tonight.”
Though he threw all of his pitches, it was the changeup and fastball that stood out the most to Kratz. Having not caught Hamels in a regular-season game, Kratz came away impressed with the lefty’s repertoire of pitches and the variety of changeups he is able to throw. More importantly, said Kratz, Hamels can throw all of his pitches for strikes.
But that changeup … wow.
“I saw Trevor Hoffman’s changeup at the end of his career, but that’s a totally different situation. He was a closer. As a starter I don’t think there is anybody [with a changeup as good as Hamels],” Kratz said. “I don’t want to sell anyone short, but with him it’s not just one pitch. It’s diving and he can throw it in the dirt. He can cut it and he can throw it away — it’s never the same.”
Meanwhile, Hamels threw 15 first-pitch strikes and retired 13 of the first 14 he faced and 16 of the first 18. He got six strikeouts, no walks and faced just two three-ball counts. Take away a couple of hits and the Braves managed to hit just seven balls in the air out of the infield against Hamels.
Yes, the lefty was on his game.
“If he’s committed to throwing a certain pitch to a certain location, he might miss that location, but if he does it again he’s not going to miss it,” Kratz said. “That’s the kind of night he had tonight. That’s how you throw a nine-inning shutout against a playoff team.”
It’s also how the Phillies snap a seven-game losing streak to the Braves. That was a stretch where the Braves outscored the Phillies 35-11 as some sort of sadistic revenge for the final game of the 2011 season that knocked Atlanta out of the playoffs.
Though the Braves have had their way with the Phillies this season, Hamels’ effort certainly gave the hometown fans some hope. In notching his first win since agreeing to a $144 million contract extension, the Phillies got timely hits and big plays from Brown, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Additionally, newcomers like Kratz and Nate Schierholtz, acquired in the trade with the Giants for Hunter Pence, both lashed out a pair of hits.
It started (and ended) in the first inning when Jimmy Rollins and Brown opened the game with back-to-back doubles that set the table for a two-run homer for Howard. For the slugger, it was his first in his last 52 plate appearances. In between the home runs he hit .191 with one extra-base hit, two RBI and 22 Ks in 13 games. He struck out in his final three plate appearances, but there were flickers of life in his bat for a change.
“He’s very capable of finding his swing,” manager Charlie Manuel said of his cleanup hitter. “We’re going to keep working.”
Despite the 50-60 record that has them 12½ games out in the wild-card race, the Phillies finally have a solid lineup together. They might not know exactly what they have just yet, but there have been some glimpses at a promising future.
“I think that’s why we’re giving some guys a chance to play. We’re trying to find where we’re at,” Manuel said. “Tonight was a good night for us and there again you get back to the consistency part of baseball. What is baseball? It’s winning and an everyday process and a consistency over a 162-game season.”
The Phillies and Braves finish the series on Wednesday night when Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.45) makes his second straight turn in the rotation against righthander Tim Hudson (11-4, 3.45).