Shortly before the Phillies embarked on a four-games-in-48-hours marathon that is this midweek series against the Florida Marlins, Charlie Manuel surveyed what was ahead. He would have to consider rest for some of his regulars, monitor bullpen usage, and hope nothing crazy happens.
"Then we get on a plane," Manuel said, "fly to the West Coast, and play the next day."
The skies darkened above Citizens Bank Park, and soon his team was sent scurrying when a rainstorm abbreviated batting practice. The beginning of this stretch was delayed one hour and 20 minutes, and then Cole Hamels allowed a first-inning run Tuesday.
The rest was easy, and by the end of the Phillies' 9-1 rout, they actually had the quirky schedule to thank. They hit five home runs - four off Marlins starter Chris Volstad, who remained in the game only to soak up innings - while Hamels brilliantly carved through the Florida lineup.
Then something crazy happened, a sight all Phillies fans have dreaded ever since this magical starting rotation was assembled. There was Hamels, forced to walk off the mound with assistant athletic trainer Mark Andersen at his side. The initial diagnosis was promising: Hamels said he merely had stiffness in his back and he fully expects to make his next start.
"It was just something where I was trying to play it smart," Hamels said.
He had retired 17 in a row at one point, another masterful outing in a season brimming with such games. His ERA is 2.49 and he can lay claim as one of the game's best pitchers and maybe its best lefthanded starter.
But in the eighth inning of an eight-run game, Hamels walked the leadoff batter, Wes Helms. Hamels had told Carlos Ruiz of the back issue during the previous half-inning, so the catcher came to the mound. Quickly, Ruiz waved to the dugout for help. Hamels surrendered the ball to pitching coach Rich Dubee and departed to guarded applause.
"There was the rain delay; obviously it got a lot colder and my body temperature dropped," Hamels said. "Everything was kind of tightening up."
That dampened the earlier events of Tuesday. Suddenly, the Phillies are a home-run-hitting team again. The five dingers - hit by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown (two) and Jimmy Rollins - were a season high. In their last six games, the Phillies have hit 10 home runs. Twenty of their 32 runs in that span have scored via homers.
"Probably the best we've hit all year," Manuel said.
Those around the Phillies have suggested the homers would come when the weather warmed. ("Hittin' season," as Manuel calls it.) With a stiff wind blowing in, then to right, and a game-time temperature of 64 degrees that dropped precipitously, there were other factors at hand Tuesday.
It helped that Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez had to ask Volstad to take one for the team. The prospect of playing two games Wednesday - the first started by a 24-year-old righthander making his major-league debut - required Rodriguez to stick with Volstad.
So the righty absorbed it all. Some of the damage was not surprising; Howard hit his seventh career home run off Volstad, the most he has hit against any opposing pitcher.
Utley, who also doubled, knocked a two-run shot over the fence in right. Brown crushed two balls, including one deep into the second deck, for his first career multihomer game.
"The second one was crazy," Rollins said. "I want to see that on a warm day."
The offense could bask in the glow of nine runs, and that will make the early wake-up call for 18 innings of baseball Wednesday easier to swallow.
"That," Rollins said, "is what we're supposed to do."
The Phillies hit five homers in a game for the first time since June 19, 2010, against the Minnesota Twins.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at email@example.com or @magelb on Twitter.