By Sam Bush
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has finally confronted the obvious fact that many fans and media members have been stating since spring training began five months ago:
The Phillies suck.
Before Monday night’s game in Milwaukee, Amaro spoke about looming changes to the Phillies’ roster, including Darin Ruf, Grady Sizemore, Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis, who might or might not be long-term solutions for the Phillies.
“It’s disappointing, particularly the offense,” Amaro said. “What more can you say other than we’re not swinging the bats very well? I didn’t anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they’re better. But they haven’t shown it. So at some point we’re going to have to make some changes. Some guys, once they are ready to play, may be factors for us.”
But while everybody waits to see what this team might look like on August 1, the Phillies got another look at their future bullpen in the seventh and eighth innings, when Ken Giles threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
“You can definitely sit back and watch and know you’re in good hands,” Phillies starter Cole Hamelssaid. “He’s got amazing stuff. He’s pretty confident in what he’s got. He doesn’t have that fear of uncertainty. He’s going to be somebody that’s going to be in the back end of that bullpen for a really long time for the Phillies. He’s going to put up some good numbers.”
It became a good learning experience for Giles, who replaced Hamels with runners on first and second and two outs in the seventh. Giles threw four consecutive fastballs to Rickie Weeks, who flied out to deep center field to end the inning.
“He didn’t quite go to his slider early enough to get that last out in the seventh, but he was outstanding,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Giles reversed course and opened the eighth with a pair of sliders for balls to Brewers right fielderRyan Braun, who quickly found himself in an enviable position. Giles predictably came back with a couple of fastballs. The first crossed the plate for a called strike, but the second Braun ripped to center field for a leadoff double.
Giles got the first out when pinch-runner Logan Schafer made a big baserunning blunder, breaking for third on a ground ball hit to Phillies shortstop Andres Blanco, who threw to third for the easy out. Giles then struck out Carlos Gomez on four pitches — four sliders — which included Gomez losing his helmet as he corkscrewed into the ground at the 1-1 offering.
“I knew he was an aggressive hitter, a big hacker,” Giles said. “I was just going to just keep throwing sliders until he either foul tipped one or he put it in play.”
Hitters are 0-for-16 with 11 strikeouts against Giles’ slider this season.
Aramis Ramirez grounded out to end the inning.
“That’s what I’ve been prepared to do this whole time I’ve been here,” Giles said. “Once I got in there it was nothing different for me. All I did up there was try to get outs. I didn’t try to do too much.”
Giles had made 11 appearances this season, but this was the first one he pitched with the Phillies holding a lead of three or fewer runs. He pitched with a deficit seven times, a tie once and a lead of four or more runs twice.
“In a 3-2 game it’s probably his biggest moment yet with the heart of the order and the situation,” Sandberg said.
The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Chase Utley hit a two-run home run to right field. Utley, who received a much needed day off Sunday, seemed to be swinging a quicker bat Monday after hitting .220 with two doubles, two home runs, 14 RBIs and a .561 OPS in 37 games since May 28.
The Phillies took a 3-0 lead in the third inning when Utley scored from first on Ryan Howard’s single to right. It was the first time the Phillies held a lead of three or more runs since June 24, when they beat the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, 7-4.
Couple that with the fact the Phillies had averaged just 2.56 runs per game in their 3-13 stretch and it must have seemed like an embarrassment of riches for Hamels, although the Phillies were 1-27 when scoring three or fewer runs since May 9.
Hamels allowed seven hits, two runs (one earned run), two walks and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. Giles and Jonathan Papelbon, who picked up his 20th save with a perfect ninth, did the rest.
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