Group hug: Sweeney, Phils embrace sweep
Hamels-led shutout caps much-needed rebound effort
SAN DIEGO - Hugs for everybody.
The Phillies needed a little love following a rough series at Citizens Bank Park, where the Houston Astros swept them in four games. They found some this weekend at PETCO Park, where they swept the San Diego Padres in a three-game series.
The Phillies, who enjoyed a 5-0 victory Sunday, remained two games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and held their 1 1/2 game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL Wild Card race.
"I can't," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, asked to explain the past week. "I absolutely can't. No sense in me trying."
Cole Hamels threw eight strong innings to pick up his first win since July 11, and Mike Sweeney provided Hamels some breathing room with a two-run home run to left field in the seventh inning for a three-run lead.
Hamels is 2-3 with a 2.20 ERA in his past 10 starts. Sweeney, whom the Phillies acquired in an Aug. 4 trade with the Seattle Mariners for cash considerations, has made an impact on and off the field.
"He is definitely one of a kind," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "He likes to give a lot of hugs. A lot of hugs. He gave me a hug after his home run. Usually it's you trying to initiate the hug. I was going to give him a handshake and he's like, 'Give me a hug.' All right."
Said Manuel: "He can give you some hugs. He's got a lot of energy, which is great. He's good for our bench. He's good for our clubhouse. Most of all, he's good when he's in the batter's box."
Sweeney explained his fondness for the man hug.
"I grew up in a family with eight kids, so there was a lot of hugging going on," Sweeney said. "I love my teammates, so when we do something good that's just how I'm wired. I want to share that love with my teammates."
Hamels finally got some love from his offense. He had pitched brilliantly for months but entered Sunday just 7-10 because of the fourth-worst run support in baseball. He threw 50 pitches through the second inning, but just 72 from the third through eighth innings. He allowed just four hits and struck out six and retired the final 16 batters he faced.
"The first two innings were rough," Hamels said. "You don't know how many innings you're going to get. I think it was just battling. This team has been really tough all year. They're in first place, so you have to try to get the game in your favor. We were able to do that, which was important after the four games we had at home."
The Phillies allowed just three runs in 30 innings in the series.
"They pitched great," Padres manager Bud Black said. "[Roy] Oswalt was good, [Joe] Blanton did his thing and I think Hamels was very good today. His velocity looks like it's back. He had a good cut fastball and a good changeup. We got some singles, but we couldn't get to him. He kept throwing strikes."
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the third. Carlos Ruiz reached on a one-out infield single, advanced to second on Padres left-hander Clayton Richard's throwing error and advanced to third on a groundout. Rollins followed with a single to right field to score Ruiz.
Richard kept the Phillies hitless from that point until the seventh inning. He struck out Placido Polanco and Chase Utley to start the seventh, then he walked Jayson Werth. Sweeney, who started at first base in place of Ryan Howard, hit a first-pitch fastball just over the wall in the left-field corner for a two-run home run to make it 3-0.
It was Sweeney's first homer with the Phillies.
"I'm just embracing being here as a new member of the Philadelphia Phillies," Sweeney said. "Any time I can go out there and play, whether it's a pinch-hitter or giving big Ryan a day off, I want to do everything I can to help this team win. I'm thankful I was able to do that today."
The Phillies added another run in the eighth, and Werth made it 5-0 with a solo homer to left field in the ninth.
The Padres lost four straight games for the first time this season but still have the best record in the NL. There is a chance the Phillies and Padres could meet in the postseason.
Manuel would welcome that.
"I'd like to see them," Manuel said. "I'd like to see anybody in October."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.