CINCINNATI (AP)—Cole Hamels’ numbers in the minor leagues suggested he was ready for big things.
His major league debut suggested the same.
“That was probably the first game I’ve ever thrown in the rain,” said Hamels, who gave up one hit in five innings. “We don’t have much rain in San Diego. I was kind of anxious to just get it over with.”
With his 93 mph fastball and swing-stopping changeup, he’s just getting started.
He struck out boyhood favorite Ken Griffey Jr. the first time he faced him, then later struck him out again. He struck out seven overall and allowed only Felipe Lopez’s two-out double in the fifth inning.
The only thing he didn’t get was the victory.
“For his first outing, he did very good,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s smooth. He looks like a pitcher.”
Shane Victorino had four hits, including a two-run homer, and Ryan Howard added a two-run shot that kept Philadelphia rolling. The Phillies have won 11 of their last 12 games, a stretch that includes one impressive streak—nine straight victories—and one equally impressive debut.
“I think he’s a little deceptive,” said outfielder Austin Kearns, who went 0-for-2 against Hamels. “I think he’s a guy you need to see a few times. He has a good changeup. He was solid.”
Outfielder Adam Dunn, making his first start of the season at first base, let Jimmy Rollins’ grounder deflect off his glove for a two-base error that opened the seventh, and Chase Utley followed with a single off Elizardo Ramirez (1-3), putting the Phillies ahead to stay.
The Phillies then pulled away against Cincinnati’s bullpen. Victorino, starting in center for the injured Aaron Rowand, had two singles, a double and a two-run homer in the ninth.
Hamels’ long-awaited arrival was a big moment for Philadelphia, completing his tear through the minors. He dominated in three Triple-A starts this season, piling up double-digit strikeout totals every time out.
The NL’s highest-scoring lineup hit only a few balls hard off Hamels, who pitched fast and kept his nerves in check as he worked through a power-laden lineup getting its first glimpse of him.
The first time Griffey came to bat, he struck out on three pitches—a changeup froze him for the final strike. The next time up, he walked on four pitches. Then, he struck out again on a changeup.
“I grew up watching him in grade school,” Hamels said of the 36-year-old outfielder. “I collected his baseball card. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to go up and ask for his autograph. Facing him and striking him out was a big deal for me.”
The only telltale sign of nervousness came in the second inning, when Hamels walked the bases loaded before striking out Ramirez on three pitches.
“The strike zone definitely shrinks here,” Hamels said.
Manuel decided to pinch hit for Hamels with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. Abraham Nunez struck out in his place.
The Phillies played their first game without Rowand, who broke his nose when he crashed into the outfield wall while making a catch on Thursday night. Rowand was placed on the disabled list and is expected to be sidelined for 15 to 20 days.
The Phillies called up OF Chris Roberson from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take Rowand’s spot. … Victorino has 10 hits in his last 13 at-bats. … The Phillies are 8-4 on the road with 20 homers. … The Reds released LHP Jung Keun Bong, who came to Cincinnati as part of the trade for reliever Chris Reitsma in 2004. Bong was sent to the minors during spring training. … OF Ryan Freel went 0-for-3 and left the game in the sixth inning with a tight groin. Freel is 2-for-26 in his last eight games. … Ramirez struck out a career-high seven.