Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Posted: 10:58 p.m. Updated: June 15, 12:40 a.m.
By John R. Finger
Lately, Cole Hamels has been very predictable when he takes the mound. Better yet, on a pitching staff loaded with consistent pros, Hamels just might be the most reliable of the bunch this season.
And thats saying something.
Hamels pitched seven-plus innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the 9-1 victory over the Florida Marlins at the Bank on Tuesday night. After giving up two hits and a run in the first inning, the lefty retired the next 17 he faced in which he allowed just three fair balls to go past the infield.
However, the strong winds and sub-seasonal temperatures mixed with the long innings in the dugout brought on by the Phillies offensive surge ended Hamels night prematurely. After walking Wes Helms to start the eighth inning, Hamels left the game with back tightness.
Fortunately for manager Charlie Manuel and the Phillies, Hamels says he does not expect to miss a start.
I have an appointment with the chiropractor tomorrow, Im excited, Hamels said after he improved his record to 9-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.49.
Better yet, Hamels says he does not expect to miss his next start, scheduled for next Tuesday in St. Louis.
I want to go out and pitch as much as possible. I dont ever want to come out of the game, Hamels said. But at the same time, sometimes theres situations where you have some doubt and youre better off not trying to force anything. I think that was kind of the situation with how long the game was. The temperature of my body just kind of went cold and I was stiffening up. To go out and try to pitch at your best when youre stiff that obviously just an opportunity to put yourself in a bad situation and put yourself in an opportunity to get hurt. I want to be able to make every start and to be healthy. If theres one little bump its not really a big deal.
Of course part of the reason why the Phillies have a chiropractor in the first place is because of Hamels. Back in 2005 when he was still making his way through the minors, Hamels was shut down in mid-July after back spasms revealed a herniated disc. In 2007 when a shoulder injury sent him to the disabled list for the first (and only) time in his big-league career, Hamels lobbied for a team chiropractor and has been a longtime devotee of the practice.
The sense from Hamels and Manuel is that some between start maintenance is all thats needed.
He has a knot in his back. He should be fine, Manuel said.
Still, between the first inning and his departure in the eighth, Hamels was back to pitching his rock-solid brand of baseball. He struck out six and after Morrisons single, Hamels threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 23 hitters he faced.
As a result, Hamels has allowed just two earned runs, 10 hits and four walks in 23 innings this month for a 0.78 ERA and a probable All-Star Game bid.
I think I got lucky. I had the wind in my favor and I left two pitches up in the zone and I got away with it, Hamels said, downplaying the outing. But if youre able to make some pitches when you need to and be effectively wild and use the elements in some situations, then so be it. It helps to have a ton of runs, too.
Oh yeah, that nine-spot didnt just magically appear on the scoreboard. The Phillies actually did some bona fide slugging to knock off the Marlins.
The Phillies ripped five homers, including the first multi-homer game of Dom Browns career, to support Hamels. Ryan Howard opened things with two-run, two-out blast in the first, followed by another two-run, two-out shot from Chase Utley in the third. Jimmy Rollins hit a two-run, two-out homer in the sixth, which was the buffer between Browns solo shot in the fourth and his upper deck solo bomb in the seventh to cap off the scoring.
The second one was crazy, Rollins said of Browns second homer. I want to see that one on a warm day with no wind. I told him that, too. That was pretty nice.
Manuel was more succinct when offering his analysis of his offense:
It was probably the best we hit all year, he said.
It would be tough to argue that, considering the top three spots in the Phils order of Rollins, Shane Victorino and Utley, pounded out seven hits and scored five runs.
Of course the offense and solid starting pitching summed up why the Phillies are the beasts of the National League. At 41-26, the Phils not only lead the NL East by 3 games, but also have the best record in baseball.
Tonight was fun. Tonight was a lot of fun, Rollins said. You could see it in guys body language where sometimes you put in work and its not translating on the field and you say forget it, but then things like this happen.
E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org