Hamels enjoys stellar debut in Phils' win
Rookie allows one hit, strikes out seven in five shutout frames
CINCINNATI -- Cole Hamels wiped his brow and breathed deeper at the sight of future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.The rookie lefty with two Major League outs to his name stared at the lefty with 539 home runs in a long, prolific career, in the first inning. Problem? Not for Hamels, the pitching phenom who made arguably the most highly-anticipated Phillies debut since Hall of Famer Robin Roberts in 1948, walking all over the Reds on Friday night in an 8-4 win at Great American Ball Park. Griffey had no chance in that first at-bat, watching a changeup for strike three, then went down swinging in the fifth as the final batter Hamels faced. Griffey represented two of Hamels' seven strikeouts. "I grew up watching him," Hamels said. "He was the only guy who I collected his baseball card, so I don't think I can ask for his autograph anymore. I'm a big fan. Being able to strike him out was a big deal for me." Facing Griffey three times -- he walked him on four pitches in the third -- was "almost like a video game," Hamels said.
"When he came out with that, I was in eighth grade, I used him all the time. I just went after him like anybody else and not worry about who he was."Griffey is likely no fan of Hamels after watching the kid blank the Reds through the first five innings. But it wasn't a completely crisp night for Hamels, who issued five free passes, but only one hit. The walks were surprising, considering he'd walked just one batter in 23 innings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and manager Charlie Manuel attributed some of that to nerves. "I expected him to have a little adrenaline going," Manuel said. "He had good self control. I don't expect him to walk very many guys [in the future]. He was outstanding. He was smooth and he was everything he was built up to be. He's going to win a lot of games." Hamels didn't win his debut, despite leaving with a 2-0 lead supplied by a two-run homer from Ryan Howard. Ryan Madson couldn't hold it in the sixth, allowing solo homers to Austin Kearns and Edwin Encarnacion. Philadelphia didn't let the game stay tied long, as Jimmy Rollins opened the seventh inning by reaching on an error by first baseman Adam Dunn and scoring on a Chase Utley single. Carlos Ruiz added a run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly, while Shane Victorino hit a two-run homer in the ninth. Victorino, starting in center field in place of the injured Aaron Rowand, went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. The game turned ugly in the ninth when the Reds scored two runs and had the tying run on deck against Julio Santana, but Tom Gordon saved the Phillies with a strikeout of Kearns, thus ending one of the wilder three-hour, 16-minute games at Great American Ball Park. "You never know what's going to happen," Gordon said with a smile. "You have to be ready for anything." Hamels, 22, looks ready for anything. He was called up from Triple-A after three scintillating starts with the Red Barons. There he posted a 0.39 ERA and struck out 36 batters in 23 innings. The lefty didn't allow a hit through the first 4 2/3 innings, despite the five walks. That led to the inevitable question of whether anyone had thrown a no-hitter in his Major League debut. The answer turned out to be yes. On Oct. 15, 1892, Cincinnati's Bumpus Jones no-hit the Pirates, winning, 7-1. He wasn't perfect, walking four, and an error led to an unearned run. That start was Jones' only of the season, and he was out of baseball by 1894. Hamels looks to be around considerably longer. "Being in the big leagues is the ultimate dream," Hamels said. "You want to prove to yourself and the team that you deserve to be here." Perhaps outfielder Chris Roberson said it best when he described playing behind Hamels for those two dominating starts with the Red Barons. "I basically could have put my glove down for a little bit," Roberson said. "He put on a display, man. He was confident and having fun. He's going to be a good one."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.