Cole Hamels dominated, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Dom Brown went yard, and the Phillies took game one of their four game series against Florida Marlins by a final of 9-1. However, just when it felt like they were on top of the world, Hamels left the game in the eighth inning with an apparent back issue.
For about an hour or so, it seemed things might not go the home team's way on Tuesday night. Viewers were treated to a sixty minute block of The Charlie Manuel Show while the start of the game was delayed by rain. Then once the action finally got underway, the Marlins grouped together a couple of quick singles off Cole, and were able to jump out to a 1-0 first inning lead on a softly hit ball up the first base line.
The threat would not last very long.
Home Run Derby
Howard got to Phillies' punching bag Chris Volstad right away, going to opposite field to take a 2-1 lead from which they would never look back. It was Howard's seventh career home run in 25 official at bats against the Florida righty.
But the offense wasn't finished. The Phils notched their first five-dinger game of the season, with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins each adding two-run blasts of their own, and Domonic Brown grabbing a table for one—twice. Brown's second found its way into Citizen Bank Park's 200 level with ease.
Four of the five bombs came off of Volstad, who is now 0-6 over his last nine starts versus the Phils. He lasted 5.2, perhaps in a futile effort to preserve the bullpen for tomorrow's double header.
The Phillies previously had not hit four home runs or more in a game this season.
Hamels Dominant, But...
While the recent offensive surge is certainly something to talk about, undoubtedly aided in large part by the red hot Utley, the real story of the game was once again Hamels. Once the Phillies took back the lead in the first, the game's outcome was never in jeopardy.
The win is Cole's ninth, tied for the most in baseball. He settled in nicely after the two Marlins singles that led to their lone run, retiring 17 consecutive batters between the first and sixth innings. That stretch could have been even longer were it not for a Howard error, his first of the season.
Again, Hamels did exit prematurely in the top of the eighth after issuing a walk to Wes Helms. With a huge lead in tact, the staff opted not to take any chances and pulled him at the first sign of discomfort, so there is no way of knowing how serious it is or not at this point. The team announced Hamels had "tightness in his middle back."
David Herndon replaced Hamels, throwing scoreless eighth and ninth frames.
As we mentioned pregame, Hamels may have been a little lost in the shuffle before the season began. Regardless of who throws where in the rotation or who reporters and fans pay the most attention to, there is no debating that King Cole is looking like one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball of late.
We can only hope his injury anything that sets him back or causes him to miss much if any time.
Are They Back?
The other take-home from tonight is the continued emergence of the offense. We don't want to get too excited, as the recent increase in production came against the lowly Cubs, and tonight at the expense of Volstad, whom they routinely pummel.
Still, with Utley beginning to come through and showing signs that his power is returning, there are some reasons to be encouraged by the last few games. It's too early to say it's all coming together for the Phils, but nights like Tuesday serve as a reminder why they are the favorites in the National League.
Photos by US Presswire, Dom Brown by AP.