COLE HAMELS said later he wouldn't have minded joining the long list of pitchers who have allowed a home run to Ken Griffey Jr., but as Shane Victorino crashed into the centerfield wall and grabbed a long fly ball for the first out of the ninth inning, Hamels realized the greater good had been served.
"He's trying to do something that's tremendous, but at the same point, I'm trying to win the game," Hamels said. "I'm glad he just missed it by inches instead of it going 500 feet over the fence."
Because that ball - Griffey's second well-hit fly ball of the day - stayed in the park, Hamels remained in position to put the finishing touches on the second shutout of his young career.
The Phillies wrapped up an 8-2 homestand by riding Hamels' arm and taking advantage of a slew of Cincinnati miscues, getting just enough offense to beat the Reds yesterday, 5-0, and head into a 10-day road trip with a great deal of momentum.
After his worst two outings of the season, the lefthander turned in a sparkling effort, going all nine innings in just 103 pitches. Manager Charlie Manuel said Hamels had a lot of success keeping the ball down in the zone, something that wasn't always the case in allowing 13 runs in starts against Houston and Florida.
Though the Phillies managed just five hits and played half the game without the services of a benched Jimmy Rollins, they scored three of their five runs off of Reds errors and got a solo home run from Geoff Jenkins in the sixth.
Cincinnati's first error led to Rollins' exit from the game, as what should have been a popout to shallow leftfield instead popped out of the glove of shortstop Paul Janish, allowing Carlos Ruiz to score from second with two outs in the third inning. Rollins apparently did not run to first with as much intensity as Manuel would have liked, and the MVP shortstop ended up on the bench an inning later. The two seemed to have resolved the situation by the time the game ended, and Eric Bruntlett scored a run and made a nice play at short in Rollins' place.
Reds righthander Homer Bailey, making his first start of the season, kept the Phillies off-balance for much of the game, allowing four hits in 6 1/3 innings. But walks and errors hurt him.
In the fifth, Pedro Feliz singled on a grounder to the pitcher, then advanced to second on a throwing error. He later scored on a fly ball by Bruntlett that Griffey dropped in rightfield. That error allowed Ruiz to advance to third and later score on a single by Victorino.
"When things are going well, it seems that everything is going well," Bruntlett said. "Sometimes you get a little help. We're catching a lot of breaks right now, but we are playing good baseball as well, and when you have that combination, you win a lot of games."
There wasn't much pressure on the offense with the way Hamels pitched. He threw 17 fewer pitches than he did in his first shutout of the season, a 5-0 win over Atlanta on May 15. He allowed just three hits, striking out four and walking three.
"Even though strikeouts look really cool on paper and people pay a lot of attention to it, I think that being able to throw complete games is a little bit harder than striking out 11, 12 guys," said Hamels, who improved to 6-4 and dropped his ERA to 3.36.
Hamels retired 13 consecutive batters from the fourth inning to the eighth, when Jerry Hairston broke it up with a double. That put a runner in scoring position with Reds rookie Jay Bruce at the plate, but Bruntlett made a great diving play to corral a hard-hit ground ball, then popped up and threw to first to record the out and end the inning.
"You are trying to get up quick and try to get something on the throw," Bruntlett said. "Everything's just got to kind of go right."
The win brought an end to a homestand in which seven of 10 games were sellouts, and the fans the past 4 days spent all game wondering if they would witness Griffey become the sixth player in major league history to hit 600 career home runs.
That didn't happen, although he doubled to centerfield in the third inning, then hit the long drive in the ninth that Victorino corraled.
"I knew he hit it well," Victorino said. "I got nervous. Like, what do I do . . . I wanted to make the play. When the ball was hit, I just wanted to make the play." *