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Bullpen Blows 5-run Lead in 9th, Phils Lose in 11

Just when you think you have it sewn up, the baseball Gods play tricks on you. Just when you think the slumping offense has sent you to an easy victory, the bullpen sticks it to you. They did just that as Minnesota scored nine runs over the final three innings to win in come-from-behind fashion, 13-10 in 11 innings.

Cole Hamels pitched seven decent innings, certainly fine enough to allow the Phillies their fourth straight win. But baseball is a funny game, isn’t it?

Carrying a 9-4 lead into the ninth, the Twins slammed the Phillies bullpen for five runs to tie it up.  Jim Thome smashed a two-run bomb into the Twins bullpen off Jose Contreras to cut the lead to three. Another run would score on a Delmon Young single to center field and with two outs, one of the best in baseball would turn the game completely upside down.

Joe Mauer would rip the second home run of the inning, this one off Brad Lidge, into the Phils bullpen in center field to make it 9-9. The Phillies would put two on in the bottom of the inning, but Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth would go down on strikeouts to end the threat.

In the 10th, Drew Butera (who?) led off with a homer to left off of Chad Durbin. A five run lead vanished, and just as quickly, Minnesota jumped in front, 10-9.

With two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Ross Gload was the last gasp of air for the Phillies. And didn’t the guy hit one just over the fence under the right field foul pole to tie it at 10 and keep the team alive? You bet he did. What a funny game.

Forget about the home run though, because that quickly went by the wayside. Danys Baez came in to pitch the 11th and three more runs appeared on the board. Baez’s struggles continued as he allowed two hits and walked two batters, giving Minnesota a 13-10 cushion that they would not relinquish. Jon Rauch, who served up Gload’s homer in the 10th, would put the seal on an unconscionable Phils loss.

All the way back in the early innings, Cole Hamels actually pitched a pretty good game. He had himself a Jekyll and Hyde afternoon and in the end, was betrayed by his bullpen.

In the 35-minute first inning, the Twins struck for three early runs off of Hamels as all nine batters stepped to the plate. Justin Morneau knocked in two on a single to start the scoring for Minnesota. An error by Hamels one batter later left the door open and Delmon Young took advantage. He drove in Morneau on an RBI-double and just like that it was 3-0.

That first inning was uncharacteristic of him as of late as he struggled with his command (sort of) and was taken to task by the entire Minny order. Beyond that opening frame, Hamels locked it down. At one point, Cole retired 13 in a row before Justin Morneau opened up the sixth inning with a launch into RF.

The Phillies wouldn’t wait long to counter. They would score three in the first and then four more in the second inning to run Twins starter Kevin Slowey after just 1 2/3 innings. Over those two innings, homers by Wilson Valdez (yep!) and Ryan Howard accentuate another breakout by the sticks. Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth also went yard.

For the once-hibernating offense, this is certainly a 180 from the last month.  Over their last four games, the Phillies have scored 32 runs.  Prior to that, it took the Phillies nearly nine full games to score that many. For the second time this season, the Phils hit four or more home runs. They did that ten times in 2009.

Sadly, the continual roll of the offense will be overshadowed by the implosion on the mound.

Over his seven innings of work, Hamels threw 79 strikes in 117 pitches and struck out seven batters en route to win number seven. His fastball routinely touched 94 (although not the 95-96 we saw in Boston) and he mixed in his devastating change up . Once pitch we did not see? His now infamous cutter.

Charlie Manuel called this one “tough” over and over in his post-game press conference. He also said it’s one they’ll need to forget about for tomorrow. That’s easier said than done.

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