CLEARWATER, FL (AP) - Despite a stellar start to spring training by Cole Hamels, the Houston Astros overwhelmed Philadelphia's relief pitchers en route to an 8-3 victory Saturday in an exhibition opener.
Hamels only one hit in two innings and struck out one batter.
"Physically, I feel really strong," the Phillies ace said. "It's just getting the timing and reps for the muscle memory. Mentally, it's just being prepared every five days now. Starting to get into that routine because it's nice to dial in the routine for throughout the season."
The Astros, making their debut as an American League team and playing for the first time under new manager Bo Porter, scored in six of the final seven innings.
Brandon Barnes hit a solo home run for Houston.
The Phillies scored in the first on a leadoff single by newcomer Ben Revere and an RBI single by Chase Utley. started the scoring for the Phillies, driving in new teammate Ben Revere in the first to grab a 1-0 lead. Yuniesky Betancourt added an RBI single the next inning.
Pete Orr homered in the eighth for the Phillies.
This was Utley's first Grapefruit League game since 2010, as he has missed the last two springs and part of the last two regular seasons with knee injuries. Utley said it was nice to be back.
"It's been a few years since I played a spring training game on that field," Utley said. "It was exciting. It was a good first step."
Lucas Harrell started for Houston and allowed four hits in two innings.
Xavier Cedeno picked up the win with one inning. Astros youngster Jarred Cosart turned in the most impressive pitching performance of the day, pitching two perfect innings and striking out Ryan Howard.
Robbie Grossman and Nate Frieman each drove in two runs for the Astros.
The Phillies helped Houston by making four errors.
Darin Ruf, the powerful Phillies prospect who figures to compete for a starting job, showed his lack of outfield experience. He bungled a routine single through the hole, allowing runners to move to second and third base.
Ruf played mostly first base throughout his career, and just transitioned to left field last season. He's mostly valued for his bat, as he hit 41 home runs last seasons combined between Double-A Reading and the major leagues.
"Playing down here in spring training, that going to help him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I didn't expect him to go out there and make great catches or catch every ball. He hasn't played much out there and he's going to make mistakes."
NOTES: In a matchup of aces with Cy Young Awards, Roy Halladay will start for the Phillies on Sunday against Detroit's Justin Verlander in Lakeland. ... Bud Norris will start for Houston on Sunday at home against the Mets. ... Astros 2B Jose Altuve, C Jason Castro, OF Rick Ankiel and DH Carlos Pena are expected to play for the first time this spring on Sunday. ... Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins also had Saturday off, and will play Sunday.