MINNEAPOLIS The mood was light in the clubhouse after the Phillies beat the Minnesota Twins, 9-8, Wednesday night. When you win for just the third time in 12 games, well, you need to laugh a little bit, even if moments earlier you were hanging on for dear life, trying not to completely blow a big lead.
In one corner of the clubhouse, however, the mood was not so cheery. Cole Hamels paid his respects to his teammates for their efforts in the much-needed win, but he found it difficult to embrace the postgame happiness because he was not pleased with the way he pitched.
I wont enjoy the moment, Hamels said. Maybe thats being selfish, but its hard to. When youre still in last place and you dont put good starts together, quite a few in a row, theyre not good moments.
Hamels shouldnt have been pleased with the way he pitched. He was presented with a 6-0 lead in the first inning and never fully shut the door on the Twins, who chipped away and chipped away until they made it a one-run game in the seventh inning (see Instant Replay). Antonio Bastardo got out of that inning with the lead and Chad Qualls and Jonathan Papelbon combined on the final six outs to seal the win. Papelbon got four outs for his 17th save.
The game featured a 466-foot home run by Jim Thome, who had another big night as the designated hitter. He drove in four runs and has 10 RBIs in his last five games, all as DH.
If Thome has been this weeks feel-good story for a struggling team that could really use one, then Hamels has been the story that causes you to scratch your head. His ERA in his last four starts is 6.08 as he has allowed 18 earned runs in 26 23 innings.
The past four starts have been pretty poor, Hamels said. And its not the right time to have poor starts. When the team is not doing well, you cant afford that.
Hamels health is fine. He said his mechanics are fine. Hes just in a rut.
Im not concerned, he said. But Im definitely frustrated. Im making one good pitch out of five. Thats not good.
I have an inning where things work really well and Im hitting my spots, then Ill have an inning where I cant hit a spot to save my life. Sometimes you can get away with it unscathed. Unfortunately Im not.
Im not getting the lead guy out. Im not putting guys away and minimizing the big inning.
Hamels entered the bottom of the seventh inning with a 9-4 lead and the Nos. 8, 9 and 1 hitters coming up. In order, he allowed a double, a walk and a double and was out of the game as the Twins were on their way to making it a one-run game. Hamels ended up getting his ninth win because the offense did enough scoring like Thome, John Mayberry Jr. also had four RBIs and then Qualls and Papelbon delivered.
Papelbon, getting his first work since Friday, would have enjoyed some breathing room in the bottom of the ninth had the Phils been able to score a run after loading the bases with no outs in the top of the inning. They got nothing.
Its never easy, manager Charlie Manuel said. We had a lot of chances to put the game away and it just kind of looked like we I dont know we just kind of tightened up.
Manuels use or lack of use of Papelbon has been a bone of contention with some critics.
After the game, Manuel clarified how he will use Papelbon on the road. He said that barring an unusual circumstance, it would only come when the Phils were leading and it would not be for two full innings.
If he goes two innings, he can throw 35 to 40 pitches, Manuel said. If he does that we lose him for two, probably three days. On the road, if youre winning, you can use your closer for more than three outs. You dont use youre closer in a tie game on the road. I havent seen many teams do that unless youre late in the season and youre going to use him two innings. If we had Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras and Papelbon we might be able to do that because wed have guys that can close the game for us.
For us to be able to use him was big. We havent had the lead late on this trip.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com