After Brad Lidge gave his all-too familiar “there goes the game” stare to the outfield last night, Phillies fans feared dropping two straight to the last place Pirates with the struggling Cole Hamels on the mound for the Fightins’. Since his gem against Dan Haren in Arizona, Hamels has struggled with both location and emotion on the mound, seeming more like the Phils’ fifth starter instead of World Series MVP. However, something must have reminded Cole of Chase Field tonight, as he pitched another gem tonight helping the Phillies beat the Bucs in 10 innings by a score of 4 to 1.
Hamels pitched eight shutout innings, walking two while striking out seven over 123 pitches. If not for a Ryan Madson blown save in the ninth, he would have also notched his eighth win on the year. This Cole Hamels looked like the man who led off each of the Phillies’ playoff series with a winning effort during the 2008 World Series Championship. While he sometimes struggled with command, Hamels came back from tough spots to hold the Pirates’ offense at bay all night long.
But before fans go and proclaim the return of vintage Cole Hamels, they’ll have to wait for another quality start or two. After his outing in Arizona, fans did the same thing, thinking they had two lefty aces in one rotation with the addition of Cliff Lee. However, between his last two gems has come almost a full month of struggles for Hamels, where one inning would knock Cole off his rhythm and cost the Phils a game. For him to truly “be back”, he’ll have to string together a few back-to-back good starts and prove to both the team and the fans that he deserves the number one spot in the rotation come October.
Here are some final notes from tonight’s game:
-Ryan Madson blew his fifth save of the year, but returned in the tenth to get the win after Ryan Howard’s three-run homer. His outing tonight shows that if the Phils are to look for help at the closer position, it may not come in the form of their primary setup man.
-Ryan Howard’s game-winning three-run home run in the tenth inning is only his second career home run at PNC Park, which is odd considering his success there in the 2006 Home Run Derby.
-Tom Hagan ’11