It wasn’t a pretty game, but they seldom are when facing the Red Sox. Boston made it uncomfortable once again, this time getting to within two in the ninth. Brad Lidge was able to seal up the leak JC Romero caused for his fourth save of the season in the Phillies 5-3 win.
Cole Hamels continued his brilliance, this time stymying the Sawx over seven innings of one run ball. With this outing, Hamels solidified himself as a surefire number two-starter by striking out eight batters while tossing 113 pitches. He has now gone seven straight full starts (we’ll exclude the Atlanta outing where he went just 2/3 of an inning, for obvious reasons) without allowing more than three earned runs. What he has earned is the confidence of the Phillies faithful. Hamels has proven that his 2008 season is closer to reappearing than his dreadful 2009 campaign.
If you noticed the radar gun today, you witnessed Cole throwing perhaps the hardest fastball of his career. Routinely, Hamels touched 95 or 96 miles per hour, an unheard of number a year ago. The Phillies top lefty looks about as locked in as you can get at this point.
Boston’s offense has been unstoppable throughout the past month. Since May 1, the Red Sox have scored nine runs or more 11 times. Hamels mixed that rocket fastball with his patented changeup, which he threw 26 times for a 65 percent strike rate. According to MLB’s Pitch F/X, Hamels tried his cutter one time, and Adrian Beltre deposited the ball over the Green Monster in left field. It was his one mistake on the day and it came on a pitch he has struggled to control all season.
Other than that, it was a shutdown performance by the guy they used to call “Hollywood.” It appears he’s beginning to regain that old swagger.
While Boston’s offense did a 180 in the month of May, the Phillies bats did an exact opposite turn during the same period. They’ve struggled to find consistency, but today was a decent effort. Five runs won’t make people high-five in the street. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.
Tim Wakefield was not as dominating as his first start against the Phils this season, thankfully. He made it through 7 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs. It could have been worse. Wakefield loaded the bases in the first innings before getting Ryan Howard to fly out. Jayson Werth followed that up with a double-play, already his fifth DP of the season. No one touched the plate in that inning, a familiar scene as of late with the bases loaded.
Things opened up in the fourth inning as a sustained run was finally accomplished. With one out, Ryan Howard doubled and Jayson Werth promptly singled him home. Raul Ibanez followed that up with his fourth home run of the season. The next batter was Ben Francisco who kept the rally going with a double. Juan Castro sent him to the plate with an RBI single. Just like that, four runs were scored the way the Phillies have done it for the past two-plus seasons. They blasted extra-base hits and used that power to their advantage.
Ibanez’s homer was the first for him since May 14th against Milwaukee. During the Phillies latest homestand, Ibanez said he found a flaw in his swing and corrected it. Maybe he was right – he’s 8-for-20 in the last five games.
Charlie Manuel called on JC Romero to start the ninth inning with two lefties coming up. Those two lefties reached base and Romero finished with a line of 1/3 of an inning, one hit, two earned runs, and a walk. Brad Lidge cleaned up the mess by getting the final two outs using that wicked Fastball/Slider combo that has been deadly this season.
Lidge has dealt with injuries this year, but his numbers speak volumes. His 1.13 ERA has reverted back to 2008 form.
The Phillies couldn’t leave Boston without a victory after their demoralizing start to the series. They were able to capture one, which gives them at least a hint of confidence heading into their World Series rematch with the Yankees on Tuesday.