Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Posted: 9:50 p.m. Updated: 11:29 p.m.
By John R. Finger
Its often a clich to describe a certain series events as something that wont appear in the box score. After all, with the advent of advanced metrics and the stats explosion in sports, theres usually a number slapped aside every little thing that happens in a ballgame.
But in the seventh inning of the Phillies 2-0 victory over the Dodgers at the Bank, it may have been one of those clich plays that helped save the game.
In this one, Dom Browns left arm could be in line for a save or an assist for a play that would otherwise go unnoticed in the outcome.
Im glad he has a good arm, Wednesdays winning pitcher Cole Hamels understated.
Heres how it played out:
After Ryan Howards solo homer in the sixth inning broke up dual shutouts and ended a 65-inning home run drought for the Phillies, Hamels gave up a leadoff double to Andre Ethier with cleanup hitter Matt Kemp digging in at the plate. Kemp entered the game batting 4 for 12 against the Phillies lefty with a .320 average this season, and a pretty good shot to negate Howards first homer since May 30.
Kemp appeared to have done the job with a single to right that looked as if it had RBI written all over it.In fact, Hamels said he didnt even back up the plate because he thought the score was about to be tied.
Yeah, it surprised me, Hamels said. I actually thought the run was going to score. I kind of didnt cover my position as well.
He didnt need to, because Brown charged the ball, fielded it smoothly and in one motion unleashed a bullet toward home plate that could have been a pretty good fastball if thrown from the mound.
With one mellifluous motion that sent the ball rocketing toward the plate no more than six-feet off the ground, Brown stopped Ethier dead in his tracks as he raced around third base. The throw took one neat hop off the grass and settled perfectly into catcher Carlos Ruizs glove a few steps up the third base line that both froze Ethier at third and kept Kemp at first.
Just like that, the Dodgers best chance to score was quashed and yet there is no notation or digit to assign to what Brown did. According to the official statistics the only thing that occurred on the play was a single by Kemp.
Of course Browns throw wasnt the only reason why the Phillies won on Wednesday night to improve their major league-best record to 37-25. With no outs and runners on the corners, Hamels had to go deep into his bag of tricks to get out of it unscathed.
It didnt take the lefty starter too long to wiggle out of the jam. In fact, to pick up his league-leading eighth win of the season, Hamels threw just 10 more pitches resulting in a first-pitch pop out to Juan Uribe, a six-pitch strikeout to Marcus Thames and finally, a four-pitch pop up for Rod Barajas.
Or perhaps even the emergence of Hamels as a bona fide ace of the staff in his own right. According to those box scores, Hamels has matched reigning Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay nearly outing for some time now. This season both pitchers lead the league with eight wins (Hamels is 8-2) while Hamels lowered his ERA to 2.58, just percentage points behind Halladays 2.56.
Meanwhile, Hamels has the lowest ERA in the National League since the last All-Star Break, going 13-6 with a 2.40 ERA in 187 13 innings with 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Thats pretty tough.
Interestingly, Hamels says he is a much better pitcher now than he ever was and that goes for his star turn during the 2008 postseason when he took home NLCS and World Series MVP honors.
I think between 09 and now Im completely different. I dont know how I did so well back then. Seriously, he said. I think being able to throw four pitches is a lot easier than two.
Manager Charlie Manuel says the biggest reason for Hamels success is his maturity and improved work ethic.
Hes getting stronger, Manuel said. Hes bigger than he used to be. If you see him with his shirt and stuff off, hes developing into a man.
Make that man enough to fight his way out of a first-and-third jam with no outs and the tying run just 90-feet away.
It doesnt matter if its first and third or if the bases are loaded, I have to make pitches, Hamels said.
And of course it doesnt hurt to have Dom Brown make a throw even one that might never be remembered.
E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com
Related: Amaro: 'You will not see a major move' Not Your Avg. Baseball Show