Phils set aside struggles to rout Rockies
When Cole Hamels walked Rockies pitcher Josh Outman on five pitches to put runners on first and second with one out in the second inning Tuesday against Colorado, it looked like things were again set to unravel for the Phillies. They were already down a run, Hamels had thrown a first-pitch strike to just two of the first nine batters he faced, and the top of the order was coming up against a pitcher who had a 6.08 ERA in his four previous starts.
But then Hamels made Eric Young Jr. flail at a wicked first-pitch changeup, and from that point forward, it was all Phillies. Hamels painted, his fielders made the routine plays and the tough ones and the offense continuously delivered with two outs.
The result? A complete, 7-2 win that showed just how good these Phillies can still be when they don’t leave runners on base, when they succeed against mediocre relievers they’re supposed to hit (See Instant Replay)
“We played a good game, we did things right, caught the ball,” Charlie Manuel said afterward.
“Solid team effort,” Cole Hamels added. “You go out and give up a run in the first inning, I don’t necessarily think that’s a stopper move, but we were able to battle and get the big runs.”
Six of those big runs came with two outs.
Placido Polanco delivered an RBI double that scored a scampering Jimmy Rollins from first base in the third inning. Rollins was on base all four times and scored three runs. The Phillies improved to 40-6 when Rollins scores at least three times. Manuel knew early on that it would be a good night for his shortstop, who also made a pair of fine defensive plays, one of which saved a run in the eighth inning.
“When Jimmy gets on, I think it definitely adds life to our game,” Manuel said. “When he scored tonight [from first on Polanco’s double], that was big, he ran real good. I liked that, it was the best I’ve seen him run in a while. It showed that his legs are strong and when he’s playing like that, he gives us a push, he gives us a lift.”
John Mayberry blasted a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. Carlos Ruiz hit a two-out RBI double in the fifth and then lined a two-run shot of his own in the seventh to give the Phillies a five-run cushion, which was more than enough for Hamels, who retired 13 in a row after walking Outman and allowed just three hits after the second inning.
“Being a pitcher, that’s probably the one taboo, you never want to walk the pitcher just because you know he’s giving himself up with a bunt,” Hamels said. “Just doing that, you kind of know you have to step up and bear down, and that’s what I had to tell myself.”
Hamels did exactly that, and his catcher explained that after a shaky beginning, the 10-game winner had control of all four pitches.
“I think in the first inning he was missing locations,” Ruiz said. “And then he came back and located his fastball real good, and kept his changeup together, and threw curveballs and back-door cutters.”
The Rockies lineup Hamels faced wasn’t necessarily fierce. It was missing Troy Tulowitzki, who is still undergoing testing to see if he has a sports hernia. Carlos Gonzalez was absent, too. The .335-hitter has a strained left knee. But still, with elite pitchers like Hamels, success and failure is often determined by their own execution, not that of the opposition.
“Physically, I feel great,” Hamels said, after picking up his first quality start in five tries. “I’ve been able to throw four pitches for strikes, my velocity is where I want it to be, but this game is a lot more than physical. You have to play the mental chess game along with keeping the confidence within yourself. It’s going to come and go in this game, you just have to step back and take it one pitch at a time, one inning at a time.”
That could be said of not just Hamels, but an entire Phillies team that has constantly failed to drive in runners from third, a team that has botched plays that used to be routine for a top defensive unit.
“When good teams are not playing the best baseball, we kind of get lost a little bit,” a philosophical Hamels said. “So you have to go back to the basics. I know that we’ve all individually been there at moments, but we haven’t been there as a group.”
On Tuesday, the Phillies were there as a group. But it’s only one win, one small step from nine games back in the NL East to eight. It’s going to take many more efforts of this type for the Phillies make a dent in the division, or in a wild card race where they trail seven teams.
And with a big picture so daunting, it makes sense that the Phillies aren’t looking at the Colorado series as one they need to sweep, or the 10-game homestand as one they need to dominate. After all, an eight-game deficit can’t be made up in one night.
“I don’t think we can look for a series or a homestand to turn us around,” Hamels said. “I really think it’s going to be one game, because once you get that game over with you move on to the next. I think if we try to create it where it’s too big a deal, then you keep digging that hole deeper.”E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com