Hamels pitches Phils to fifth straight win
Rollins, Howard help ace improve to 3-0 at Cincy's park
CINCINNATI -- Jimmy Rollins sees things slowly coming together for the Phillies.
His teammates see them, too.
They were there for everybody to see Tuesday in a 4-3 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Cole Hamels threw a season-high 117 pitches in six innings and picked up the win. Ryan Howard homered. The Phillies put together a nice three-run rally in the fifth inning against Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto to take a three-run lead. Clay Condrey and Ryan Madson threw two scoreless innings in relief. And Brad Lidge worked out of a jam in the ninth to pick up the save in his third consecutive scoreless appearance.
"We're doing a lot of good things. We are," Rollins said after the victory, which extended the Phils' winning streak to five games and kept them in first place in the National League East. "Things are starting to click. It looks better when you do it night after night after night after night, as opposed to a couple nights here and have two bad games."
For things to really click, Philadelphia needs its ace and leadoff hitter to get on rolls.
Hamels, now 3-0 at Great American Ball Park in his career, is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his past four starts, so that seems to be happening for him, although he didn't finish off hitters as he would have liked Tuesday. When he throws 117 pitches, he wants to be in the seventh or eighth inning -- not the sixth. But while the Reds scored two runs on solo homers from Jay Bruce and Jerry Hairston Jr., they never put any real heat on him.
Bruce's homer made it 1-1 in the fourth, but the Phillies struck back in the fifth. Pedro Feliz hit a leadoff double and Hamels hit a one-out single to left field to put runners at the corners.
"Probably the biggest hit they got was the one by Hamels," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
It was big because it set up the entire inning, Baker said. Rollins stepped up and doubled to right-center field to score Feliz. Chase Utley followed with a single to center to score Hamels. And Raul Ibanez's sacrifice fly to left field scored Rollins to make it 4-1.
Rollins is hitting .363 (8-for-22) with a double, triple and three RBIs during the five-game winning streak.
He said he is feeling good at the plate these days, and that is good news for the offense.
"When he goes, we go," Howard said. "I don't think anybody was worried about what was going on. He got off to a slow start, but that's why you play 162 games. All that matters is where you are at the end. If he's hot at the end of the season and we're hot at the end of the season, nobody will even remember the slow start. You knew at some point he was going to come back and putting it together. We're used to it. It's J-Roll being J-Roll."
J-Roll has been doing damage on the road.
All the Phillies have.
"It's good we're on the road for some reason," Rollins said. "These things don't happen at home right now."
He is right. The Phillies are 13-4 on the road and 8-12 at home.
"It is weird," Rollins said.
Especially because the Phils went 7-0 at home in the 2008 postseason.
"I know," he said. "Maybe we're just sitting around waiting for that magic to come back."
In time, the Phillies expect good things to happen at home. Less than a week ago, Philadelphia had dropped to .500 and fans seemed to be getting antsy.
How quickly things can change.
"That is baseball," Rollins said. "We understand that. You guys understand that because you're here. And believe it or not, the fans are actually understanding that because we did win. You know what? Let's give them 162 games and see what happens. That's good."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.