Hamels Guts Marlins, But Leaves Early... Plus: A Five-Homer Night for Phils

Hamels Guts Marlins, But Leaves Early... Plus: A Five-Homer Night for Phils

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.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat 114-84
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks 114-110
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres 4-1
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).