PHILADELPHIA -- When Ken Griffey Jr. ripped a ninth-inning changeup from Cole Hamels to center field, the Phillies pitcher thought the ball was headed over the fence. The 24-year-old left-hander was ready to accept his place in history as the man who surrendered Griffey's 600th home run. Shane Victorino, however, chased Griffey's fly ball to the warning track and nabbed it out of the air as he crashed into the center-field fence. The catch preserved Hamels' second career complete-game shutout and the Phillies' 5-0 win over the Reds before 45,492, the third-largest crowd in Citizens Bank Park history.
"I think I made it look a little harder than I should have," Victorino said jokingly. The win moved the Phillies two games ahead of the Marlins atop in the National League East and completed an 8-2 homestand. Hamels was able to smile after avoiding the historic home run. His six wins moved him into a tie with Jamie Moyer for the team lead and his 3.36 ERA is lowest among Phillies starters. But even if Hamels' changeup to Griffey had left the yard, he said that he would not have been bothered. Hamels has been a big fan of the legendary home run hitter.
"Obviously, it'd be a special moment with 600," Hamels said. "I wouldn't have minded."True, it would have prevented the lefty from notching the shutout, but in striking out four and walking three over nine innings, Hamels had so many things working in his favor that one home run would have only been a minor blemish. Griffey wil remember Hamels for different reasons. Hamels, facing the Reds in his Major League debut on May 12, 2006, struck Griffey out twice. On Thursday, Hamels held Griffey to one double in four at-bats. Hamels entered Thursday's game on the heels of his toughest two-start stretch in 2008. He gave up 13 runs in 9 2/3 innings in starts against Houston and Florida. Manager Charlie Manuel blamed the lefty's struggles on a lack of command and too many high fastballs. The pitcher Manuel saw Thursday was much different. "He kept the ball down," Manuel said. "[He] had a good breaking ball. [I] felt like he threw some real good low strikes." Said Hamels: "That was something I knew I needed to establish because if I didn't, I was going to get hit around." The Phillies' offense, meanwhile, got plenty of help from three errors by the Reds. They took a 1-0 lead in the third when Carlos Ruiz scored on a shallow pop fly by Jimmy Rollins that was dropped by shortstop Paul Janish. In the fifth, Pedro Feliz moved to second on a throwing error by pitcher Homer Bailey. Feliz then scored when Griffey couldn't come up with an Eric Bruntlett pop fly to right, giving the Phillies a 2-0 edge. Ruiz then scored on a single by Victorino. The Phillies added insurance runs when Geoff Jenkins hit his sixth home run in the sixth and Bruntlett scored on a Ryan Howard single in the seventh. "That's what you've got to do," Victorino said. "You've got capitalize in this game. For us, it gave us the momentum -- a run here and there -- and we ended up holding on to the lead."
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.