CINCINNATI (AP)—Everything was lined up for Cole Hamels to turn in the best performance of his brief career—an air-clearing team meeting, great weather, and Philadelphia’s first triple play in almost eight years.
Hamels had a career-high 15 strikeouts in his first complete game and the Phillies turned the first triple play in the major leagues this season in a 4-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds before a sellout crowd Saturday night.
“I was able to get the count in my favor, and even when the count wasn’t in my favor, I was able to execute,” said Hamels, who went five innings and earned a no-decision in his major league debut in Cincinnati last May 12.
Hamels (2-0) allowed five hits and walked two over 115 pitches. His previous career best for strikeouts was 12, which he reached twice last season.
“He pitched great for them,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “He pitched well for them last year in his major league debut. He did a good job.”
The Phillies backed Hamels with their first triple play since May 15, 1999, against the New York Mets. With Josh Hamilton on second base and Edwin Encarnacion on first in the fifth inning, David Ross hit a grounder to Phillies third baseman Abraham Nunez, who stepped on third to force Hamilton and threw to second baseman Chase Utley to force Encarnacion for the second out.
Utley’s relay to first baseman Wes Helms caught Ross by a step. The Reds hadn’t hit into a triple play since catcher Eddie Taubensee lined into one against San Diego on May 19, 1997.
“(Ross) was the perfect guy to do it,” Nunez said. “I said to myself, ‘If I get the ball close to the bag, I’m going to try for it.”’
The triple play helped the Phillies preserve a 2-1 lead.
“I’m sure it saved me 10 or 15 pitches,” Hamels said.
“The triple play was pretty exciting,” Utley said. “It’s the first one I’ve ever been a part of. It happened so quickly.”
“I ran as hard as I could,” said the slumping Ross, who is hitting .105 after going 0-for-2 and seeing his only hard-hit ball of the night turned into three outs. “This game—it’s crazy, man.”
Utley also homered and drove in three runs for the Phillies, who held a 1-hour, 20-minute team meeting called by manager Charlie Manuel before the game and improved to 5-11 with the win. The Reds beat Philadelphia 2-1 in 10 innings Friday night when Scott Hatteberg hit a two-out, solo homer that tied it in the ninth, and Brandon Phillips singled with the bases loaded in the 10th.
“Timing’s everything,” Manuel said. “Cole Hamels was something. He was super, man. I was letting him go in the ninth because they still had (left-handers) Ken Griffey (Jr.) and Hatteberg over there. I was only going to let him go 120 pitches.”
The Phillies capitalized on third baseman Encarnacion’s first-inning throwing error to jump out to a 2-0 lead against Eric Milton (0-3). Encarnacion’s attempt to force Shane Victorino at second on Jimmy Rollins’ grounder with one out pulled Phillips off the base. Both runners were safe and scored on Utley’s double off the left-center field wall.
Jeff Conine hit Hamels’ first pitch of the second inning into the left-field seats for his second home run of the season, but Utley homered off Milton with one out in the sixth. Aaron Rowand added his second home run of the season in the eighth inning
Milton, who left Philadelphia to sign a three-year, $25.5 million contract with Cincinnati as a free agent after the 2004 season, allowed six hits and three runs, two earned, in six innings.
“Their guy was better,” Milton said. “That two-run first was all he needed.”
A Philadelphia batting order shakeup included dropping Rollins from leadoff to third, his first appearance in that spot since last Aug. 22 at Chicago. Victorino batted leadoff and Rowand second, also for the first time this season. … Encarnacion, in a 1-for-33 rut going into the game, was dropped to seventh in the Cincinnati batting order. SS Alex Gonzalez batted fifth for the first time this season. … The crowd of 39,353 was listed by the Reds as their first sellout since opening day.