Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg liked what he saw from Cole Hamels in his long-awaited season debut. A better job by the bullpen would have helped, along with a few more runs against Zack Greinke.
Greinke outpitched Hamels with seven strong innings, Hanley Ramirez homered and Yasiel Puig drove in two runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 5-2 victory over the Phillies on Wednesday night.
Hamels took the loss in his season debut, after missing the first three weeks because of biceps tendinitis. The 30-year-old left-hander threw 86 pitches, allowing two runs and six hits over six innings with five strikes and a walk.
"It was good to see Cole out there and great to see the way that he threw the ball with the quality that he had and the stuff that he had," Sandberg said. "He was outstanding for the first outing of the year — 86 pitches and two runs. He did his job right there. He gave us a chance to win."
Hamels made 30 or more starts in each of the previous six seasons, so starting the season this late was an adjustment for him.
"That's in the past. I don't really think about last year or last week. I just keep going forward and try to get healthy," Hamels said. "... I knew what I was going into. It was just a matter of preparing myself just like I normally have and getting ready in a spring training-type setting. It was just a couple of weeks later than everybody else."
Puig struck out his first two times up, but lined an RBI single to right in the fifth to put the Dodgers ahead 2-1 after Hamels gave up a two-out single by Drew Butera and walked Greinke.
"You can never walk the pitcher. I understand Greinke is a very good hitter, but at the same time, you have to let him hit his way on," Hamels said. "That right there was the ballgame. It decided everything in terms of what transpired in the next inning and it racked up my pitch count right there."
Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly gave Los Angeles 1-0 lead in the second, after Matt Kemp led off with the first of his two doubles. Ryan Howard tied it in the fourth with an RBI single after a leadoff double by Jimmy Rollins.
Greinke (4-0) had nine strikeouts through the first five innings, including five in a row after Howard's hit. He also doubled with two outs in the seventh and scored on Puig's triple off the right field fence.
"Greinke was pretty tough. He was kind of the equalizer tonight," Sandberg said. "He used his off-speed stuff, spotted his fastball, and I thought his slider was really good. We didn't have too many opportunities, as far as multiple baserunners."
Greinke allowed two runs and five hits while striking out 11 and walking one batter intentionally. Manager Don Mattingly tried to squeeze one more inning out of the right-hander, but lifted him after Jayson Nix drove Greinke's 108th pitch to left-center for a leadoff homer.
Greinke is off to the second-best start of his 11-year career. He won his first six decisions in 2009 with Kansas City, when he finished 16-8 and established career bests with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts en route to the AL Cy Young Award.
"He's a true competitor and he's pretty smart" Hamels said. "He definitely knows how to pitch, and you know when you have to face a guy like him, you have to keep the other guy from scoring because he's going to do the same."
It was Greinke's 18th double-digit strikeout game in the majors and his first in 33 starts with the Dodgers. This was the 17th consecutive start in which Greinke pitched at least five innings while allowing fewer than three runs.
J.P. Howell got three outs in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save after the Dodgers picked up a couple of insurance runs in the eighth on Ramirez's leadoff homer to center and Justin Turner's RBI single.
NOTES: The Phillies have 18 extra-base hits over their last four games after getting none in their previous four — the club's longest drought since a four-game stretch in May 1968. ... The three relievers used by Sandberg — Jeff Manship, Mario Hollands and Shawn Camp — all were non-roster invitees to spring training. ... Gabe Morales became the 84th different umpire to work home plate in a regular-season game started by Hamels, who is a career-best 6-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 64.0 innings with Gary Darling calling balls and strikes.
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