SAN FRANCISCO Even as they were running their winning streak to a season-best nine games and Cole Hamels was pitching one of his best games of the season Saturday afternoon, the Phillies were forced to deal with a season-long pest.
The injury bug.
All-Star third baseman Placido Polanco appeared to be in significant pain as he gingerly sat down at a table in the clubhouse to eat a snack after the Phillies 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
Polanco left the game in the eighth inning with pain in his left hip, and if his postgame mannerisms were an indication, he could be headed back to the disabled list. After the game, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. feverishly worked his iPad in manager Charlie Manuels office, possibly communicating messages to his minor-league staff that an infielder might soon be needed.
Amaro said Polanco would have an MRI on Sunday or Monday when the team got to Los Angeles.
Polanco, 35, spent much of July on the disabled list with a bulging disc in his back. He said the hip problem was unrelated to the back problem and added that the hip had been bothering him for about a month well before he tangled with Giants catcher Eli Whiteside in the bench-clearing incident between the Giants and Phillies on Friday night.
Ive had it for a while and its just gotten worse, sprinting and running, he said.
Polancos pain has worsened at a time when it looked as if the Phillies were getting healthy. Roy Oswalt, who hasnt pitched since June 23 because of a bulging disc in his back, comes off the DL on Sunday. Polanco had returned from the DL last week.
The Phils have sent 13 different players to the DL this season, but through it all have been able have the best record in the majors for much of the season, thanks mostly to their starting pitching staff.
The starters have shined in this series against the Giants, leading the Phils to three straight wins against their heated West Coast rivals.
Cliff Lee pitched his fifth shutout on Thursday night. Vance Worley held the Giants to two runs over seven innings on Friday night. And Hamels came within one out of his first shutout of the season in registering the complete-game win on Saturday afternoon.
Hamels left a fastball over the plate to Pablo Sandoval with two outs in the ninth and Sandoval smacked it into the leftfield seats to spoil the shutout.
Hamels was quite disappointed by the home run. First baseman Ryan Howard flipped him the ball after the final out of the game and Hamels snapped at it angrily with his glove.
When youre only one out away from a shutout, Hamels said. Those are more impressive than complete games. And Cliff just had one. Were all trying to compete against each other. Its just the competitiveness that I think we have and the expectations. So I was just a little frustrated.
The Phillies pitching staff has recorded a 2.49 ERA during this nine-game winning streak.
The Phils offense came alive in July and had continued to click in August before running into Giants righthander Matt Cain on Saturday. Cain held the Phils to just three hits over eight innings. Two of those hits came in the first inning and they helped the Phils get a quick 2-0 lead that proved to be enough with the way Hamels pitched.
Jimmy Rollins got the Phillies first-inning rally started with a leadoff double and scored on Hunter Pences daily hit. The Phils went up 2-0 when the Giants defense fells apart behind Cain.
Pence has hit in all eight games with the Phils and driven in seven runs.
The Phils have not lost since he joined the club.
Hamels did not walk a batter and he struck out five. He scattered seven hits. Two of them came with two outs in the eighth. Hoping for a rally, the sellout crowd at one of baseballs most electric ballparks came alive. Pitching coach Rich Dubee visited Hamels at the mound and the lefty proceeded to get his biggest out of the game as Aaron Rowand popped up a 1-0 fastball.
The Phils have now won 12 of their last 13 series.
They havent lost a game since the Giants beat them July 27 and 28 in Philadelphia. At that time, some folks were wondering if the Giants were in the Phillies heads.
On Sunday, the Phils go for a four-game sweep of the Giants. If they get it, it may be the Phillies who are in the Giants heads.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSalisburyCSN.