Cole Hamels had a terrific fastball Thursday afternoon and he rode it to a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants (see Instant Replay).
In the clubhouse after the game, Hamels wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Fitness Sucks."
It was an ironic fashion choice because Hamels credited his strength and fitness routine for the 95-mph fastball that he featured in delivering eight innings of one-walk, 10-strikeout baseball.
Hamels began the season on the disabled list after a wintertime bout of shoulder tendinitis. That fastball left no doubt about the health of his arm.
“I think it’s just the workouts that I’ve been able to do in spring training and throughout the season that are starting to kick in,” Hamels said. “Just changing my routine enough where everything stays loose but strong.”
Right from the get-go, it was clear that Hamels was pitching with some edge, some urgency, some anger. He blew a 95-mph fastball by the Giants’ best player, Buster Posey, to end the top of the first inning, and got Hunter Pence on another 95-mph heater in the fifth. Hamels struck out Pence, a Phillie tormenter, three times.
Afterward, Hamels admitted to being in a bit of a bad mood when he took the mound. He’d seen the Giants beat the Phillies three straight nights and wanted to write a different story.
“It’s just about going out there and being able to compete and having a little extra adrenaline and anger, trying to prove a point,” he said. “Just trying to go out and let it happen. I think losing the past three games, you just want to go out there and win.
“It was fun today.”
Run support is often a problem for Hamels and it has been his last two starts. The Phils have scored just four runs -- and both of their runs Thursday were unearned -- in Hamels' last two starts, but that hasn’t stopped the lefty from winning twice. He beat the Braves by the same score, 2-1, his last time out.
In his last two starts, Hamels has allowed just two runs in 15 innings. He has walked one and struck out 19.
“He's pitched like an ace,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “When we get him some runs, obviously that has lacked in some of his outings, but a little run support and where he is at right now, he’s at the top of his game.”
Thursday’s run support came in the form of a hustle double by Jimmy Rollins in the first inning, a passed ball and an RBI single by Marlon Byrd.
In the fifth inning, Giants leftfielder Michael Morse dropped a blooper off the bat of Ben Revere and it went for a two-base error. Revere scored on a hit by Chase Utley.
Hamels made the two runs stand up -- with a little help from Jonathan Papelbon, who bounced back from a blown save and a loss the previous two nights and recorded his 24th save.
Though just 5-5, Hamels has a 2.72 ERA in 18 starts. He has 125 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings and has allowed just 102 hits.
Hamels’ name continues to pop up in trade rumblings and the Phillies would listen to offers, but the price is extremely steep -- as it should be. The Phillies, who are 14 games under .500 and headed for a third straight year of no postseason, prefer to rebuild their team around the 30-year-old lefty and performances like this show why.
It was two years ago this week that Hamels signed his $144 million contract extension with the Phils. He is signed through 2018 with an option for 2019.
Hamels was asked if he had any regrets about staying in Philly?
Though he did not answer the question directly, he did not come off as a guy that wants to leave.
“I think the decision I made at the time was with the promise that we would go out and win the whole time when I was here,” he said. “I knew we had Doc [Halladay] and Cliff [Lee] and I felt confident what we could do as a pitching staff.
“But I enjoy pitching here. All the sellouts (2008-2012) and everything that the fans and the organization were able to do for all of us made it an easy decision because it is so much fun to come to this ballpark and win. That’s what I was expecting and what I’m trying to still do.”
He succeeded on Thursday.