That’s what you call a big boy start. Cole Hamels has steadily been climbing up the ladder of success this season, mowing down his opponents at a higher rate than ever. Wednesday night was a statement by Hamels. He fanned nine Dodgers over eight innings, leading the Phillies to a 2-0 win.
Hamels had several incredible innings, but his final two frames were game-defining. In the seventh, he wiggled out of a two-on, no-out jam with some excellent maneuvering, getting Juan Uribe to pop up on the first pitch for the first out, followed by a Marcus Thames strikeout on a changeup that Hamels took a little extra off. Then, the showdown: Barajas v. Hamels. Rod Barajas loves to toy with the Phillies, especially since his unproductive, less-than-exciting stint in Philly.
Here, he was just another victim. Barajas popped out to shortstop Wilson Valdez for the final out, inducing a roar from the tense crowd. It wasn’t quite a shutdown inning from Hamels, but it did the trick, keeping the 1-0 lead intact.
Again in the eighth, the Dodgers put two on base, but Hamels clamped down to get Andre Ethier to ground out lazily on a 3-1 putout. That my friends, is the new, improved, mature Cole Hamels. Consider Charlie Manuel impressed.
“He’s grown up a lot, he’s been around guys like Jamie Moyer and Halladay and Lee and Roy Oswalt, guys like that,” said Manuel.
The skipper also noted his burlier physique. “He’s a bigger than he used to be. If you see him with his shirt and stuff off, he’s developing into a man.” Manuel may have laughed along with the media, but he was dead serious and spot on. Everything about Hamels is different, and it’s made him into a true ace – and perhaps the best left-handed pitcher in the game.
Every pitch Hamels willed to the plate was crucial, especially with the reality that their dreadful offense would provide little. Tonight his mates gave two runs, and it was just enough.
It only took 65 1/3 innings, or 262 plate appearances, but it finally happened. A Phillies player hit a ball over the fence. Ryan Howard is the responsible party for this feat, as he stroked a one out homer to right field for his 13th of the season, putting his team up 1-0. Since 2000, it’s the second longest homer-less stretch by the Phillies, behind only last years nightmarish May.
Elated that he broke the streak of homer futility, Howard raised a hand in the air as a mild celebration of sorts. It’s the little things in baseball, sometimes.
The Phillies would add an insurance run in the seventh as Shane Victorino scored on a fielders choice, narrowly missing the tag by Barajas on a bang-bang play.
One inning earlier, there was plenty of noise but again nothing to show for it. With two outs, Michael Martinez shot one down the right field line, turned on the jets, and wound up with a triple. As Hamels coaxed a walk from the suddenly-wild Kuroda, Martinez was still firmly planted at third. A wild sequence ensued.
With Shane Victorino at the plate, Kuroda threw a sinker past catcher Rod Barajas and off the bricks behind home plate. Martinez broke toward home, but stopped and retreated as Barajas quickly pounced on it. However, Barajas’s throw was wild, striking Victorino in the batters box. Martinez may have been able to score, although Manuel hit the nail on the head by saying that Martinez probably didn’t want to make a mistake there and risk getting nothing. They wouldn’t anyway. One batter later, Dom Brown would fly out to right field.
Missed opportunities, a crazy bounce, a rookie mistake; either way it sums up what this offense has been going through as of late.
While the bats continued their demise, Hamels continued his rise. This performance puts him squarely in the early conversation for Cy Young in the National League, a foreign concept two seasons ago. As he continues to climb that ladder, it’s likely we’ll see more starts like this. After all, he’s now a grown up.