There are enough things going right for the Phils these days that you get the feeling they might be okay even if Cole Hamels wasn’t absolutely unhittable. It looks like we’re not going to have to find out. Hamels made his fifth outstanding start in a row last night, holding the Braves to a run over eight innings as he led the Phils to a 3-1 win.
Hamels has been charged with one run on less in seven of his last nine starts.
He got a lot of help from his middle infielders last night as they turned three double-plays, two of which were spectacular. Utley got a late throw from Polanco in the first, but turned the double-play thanks to a strong throw he delivered just as he landed. In the sixth it was Valdez’s turn to make a fantastic throw as the Phils again doubled-up Prado to end a threat for the Braves.
Atlanta, on the other hand, struggled defensively and their problems in the bottom of the fifth changed the game. The Phils came to bat in with the score tied at 1-1 and managed to score a pair of runs on a single hit, Chase Utley’s single with one out and nobody on base, thanks to a pair of defensive miscues from the Braves. Shane Victorino led off with a knuckling fly ball to right that went off of Jason Heyward’s glove for a three base error. Later in the inning Utley stole second and took third when Martin Prado didn’t handle the throw from the catcher, allowing him to score on a ground out by Ibanez three batters later.
The Phillies are 90-61 after beating the Atlanta Braves 3-1 last night. They have won eight in a row and lead the NL East by four games. Atlanta is four games ahead of the Padres for the Wild Card.
Hamels got the start for the Phillies and went eight innings, allowing a run on six hits and a walk. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, both doubles. He struck out six. He threw 117 pitches last night after throwing 127 in his previous start. Over his last five starts he has allowed two earned runs in 36 2/3 innings (0.49 ERA).
Heyward singled with one out in the first, but Hamels got Prado to hit into a double-play behind him. Prado hit a ball to third and Polanco was a little slow getting the ball to second. Utley caught it and made a strong throw just after landing to beat Prado at first. Exceptional play by Utley to make such a solid throw with so little time.
Derrek Lee started the second with a single. Brian McCann was behind him and doubled to right, scoring Lee to put Atlanta up 1-0. Matt Diaz moved McCann to third with a single, but Hamels struck Alex Gonzalez out for the second out and got Melky Cabrera to hit into a double-play to prevent further damage.
It was 1-1 when Hamels set Atlanta down in order in the third.
He came back with a 1-2-3 fourth.
Gonzalez doubled down the third base line and into the left field corner with one out in the fifth. Hamels struck Cabrera out for the second out and the pitcher Brandnon Beachy for the third.
He was up 3-1 when the started the sixth. Heyward walked with one out. Prado was next and crushed a ball out of the yard but just foul and then smashed a ball in-between first and second. Utley moved to his left to field it and then turned and threw to second. Valdez uncorked a fantastic throw to first to complete the double-play.
I wasn’t sure that was a double-play when it was hit and it turned out not to be close. The throw from Valdez was exceptionally strong.
Lee started the seventh with a single. McCann flew to left, Diaz flew to right and Gonzalez grounded to third.
He threw a 1-2-3 eighth and the Phillies hit for him in the bottom of the inning.
Lidge started the ninth with the Phils still up by two runs. He struck out Heyward, got Prado on a fly ball to right then struck out Lee to end the game.
Over his last 21 appearances, Lidge has thrown 19 2/3 innings and been charged with two earned runs (0.92 ERA). Opponents are hitting .119 against him in those games and he hasn’t allowed a home run.
Lidge was pitching with a day of rest and threw 11 pitches in the game.
The Phillies lineup against righty Brandon Beachy went (1) Victorino (2) Polanco (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Werth (6) Ibanez (7) Ruiz (8) Valdez. Valdez still at short with Rollins sidelined. Beachy was making his major league debut after the Brave’s scheduled starter, Jair Jurrjens, was unable to go with a knee problem.
The Phils went in order in the first.
They were down 1-0 when Howard started the bottom of the second with a double to right. Werth flew to right for the first out before Ibanez moved Howard to third with a ground out to the pitcher. Ruiz lined a double into left and Howard scored, tying the game at 1-1. Valdez was walked intentionally and Hamels flew to left to leave both runners stranded.
I wouldn’t walk Valdez intentionally that much.
Victorino started the third with a single and stole second before Polanco flew to left. Utley struck out swinging for the second out before Beachy walked Howard intentionally. Werth flew to right for the third out.
Valdez walked with two outs in the fourth. Hamels flew to center for the third out.
Victorino lined a ball to right to start the fifth. Heyward should have made the play, but the ball went off the tip of his glove and fell for an error. Victorino was running hard and wound up at third with nobody out. Polanco followed and grounded to short for the first out with Victorino scoring to put the Phils ahead 2-1. Utley followed that with a single and with Howard coming to the plate the Braves called on lefty Eric O’Flaherty to pitch to him. Utley took off as O’Flaherty delivered ball two to Howard and the count went 2-1. With the huge shift on for Howard, Prado was covering second and he didn’t handle the throw. Utley went to third with the error charged to McCann, but Prado really should have caught the ball. Howard walked, putting men on first and third with one down for Werth. O’Flaherty stayed in to pitch to him and Werth ripped a 3-2 pitch foul down the third base line before walking to load the bases for Ibanez. Ibanez hit a ground ball to short and Gonzalez made a nice play to get an out at first with Utley scoring to put the Phils up 3-1 with two down and men on second and third. Righty Peter Moylan came in and struck Ruiz out on three pitches to leave both men stranded.
Miserable defense and walks in the inning help the Phils score two runs on just one hit (Utley’s single).
The Phils went in order in the sixth.
Polanco walked to start the seventh. Utley popped to third for the first out and Howard struck out swinging for the second. Werth moved Polanco to second with a single into right, but Ibanez flew to center to leave both runners stranded.
The Phils went in order in the eighth. Gload hit for Hamels with two outs and the righty Kyle Farnsworth on the mound for Atlanta. Farnsworth struck him out swinging to end the inning.
Victorino was 1-for-4.
Polanco 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
Howard 1-for-2 with two walks. One of the walks was intentional. He has 13 walks in his last 32 plate appearances. In the 154 plate appearances before those 32 he walked 12 times.
Werth 1-for-3 with a walk.
Ibanez 0-for-4 with an RBI and five men left on base.
Ruiz 1-for-4 with an RBI double.
Valdez 0-for-2 and walked twice. Five walks in 50 September plate appearances for Valdez — that’s more than Werth, who has four in 77 plate appearances.
Roy Halladay (19-10, 2.49) faces lefty Mike Minor (3-1, 5.84) tonight. Halladay has been less dominant over his past five starts, throwing to a 4.41 ERA and allowing nine home runs in 34 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old Minor was the seventh pick of the 2007 draft and has made seven starts for the Braves this year. Lefties are hitting .194 against him, righties .322 with all five of the home runs he has allowed. He had a 3.91 ERA after his first four starts but has allowed 14 runs in 14 innings over his last three times out.
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