Cole Hamels posts complete game in 5-1 win over Braves
ATLANTA - Freshly armed with a comfortable lead, Cole Hamels toyed with Justin Upton in the bottom of the sixth inning last night at Turner Field.
Hamels fell behind the dangerous Braves two-hole hitter. But with a 2-0 count, he went to his bread-and-butter pitch, the changeup, and got a swinging strike.
Hamels stayed soft and eventually ended the seven-pitch at-bat with a strikeout.
Three innings earlier, Hamels went the other way against Upton, showing a changeup on the first pitch before going hard the rest of the at-bat. It ended with a harmless popup to first base.
Hamels had the Atlanta hitters guessing all night, and as a result, was at his best against the team running away with the National League East. Hamels took a shutout into the ninth inning and settled for a 5-1 win.
The victory snapped the free-falling Phils' most recent losing streak at three, and 11 in a row on the road, and gave their manager a piece of history. The win was the 1,000th in the managerial career of Charlie Manuel.
The Phillies presented Manuel with a base with the inscription "1,000" and the signatures of every player on the team.
"It's definitely quite an achievement," Manuel said. "Like I told my players, they're the ones that make it happen. They play. The two organizations I've been with , they're the ones that get the players for me. That just goes to show you just how good they are.
"Everything I achieve, accolades or something in baseball, it's hard for me to stand there and say I accept all of my accolades because the other people are definitely achieving those for you. That's kind of how I look at it."
The fact that it happened last night was somewhat fitting: Hamels has won 96 of those 1,000. "That's good, real good," Manuel said. "I'll go back and thank him again."
Hamels (5-13) held the Braves to six hits while striking out nine and walking one. The complete game was his first in 365 days: His last came on Aug. 13, 2012, the second of back-to-back shutouts by the Phils' ace.
Hamels was one out away from first shutout since then until Chris Johnson hit a two-out, ground-rule double to score the Braves' only run. He settled for his best start of the year against a home-run-happy Atlanta lineup.
"Those hitters over there are outstanding, so you really have to keep them off-balance, you have to be able to hit your target," Hamels said. "The pitch that's being called, you have to have full confidence in it and execute it, because if you let up or miss a little bit, they're going to crush it. I was able to get spot on with Chooch, he gave me a good target, and I was able to hit it with any pitch we were throwing."
After an uneasy start to the season, Hamels has once again resembled the pitcher the Phillies signed to a franchise-record $144 million contract last summer. In the 13 starts Hamels has made since the beginning of June, he has a 2.67 ERA.
But he has only picked up steam with each passing start: since the beginning of July, Hamels has a 1.98 ERA in eight starts. With last night's dominant effort, Hamels lowered his ERA to 3.65 in 25 starts this season.
Even when Hamels has been on this year, though, the Phils have rarely cashed in as they did at Turner Field. They went into Atlanta having lost 18 of the 24 games Hamels had started.
But Hamels had two things working for him last night: offensive support and his manager's confidence. Hamels was a part of that offensive support, too.
He hit a one-out triple off Braves starter Julio Teheran in the third inning and scored when Jimmy Rollins followed with a single. Three innings later, in the sixth, Cody Asche gave Hamels plenty of breathing room with one swing: a three-run home run that upped the Phils' lead to 4-0.
Hamels took the runs and ran, despite a rising pitch count.
After walking Dan Uggla to put two runners on with one out in the seventh, Hamels induced an inning-ending doubleplay from B.J. Upton. He was at 99 pitches through seven.
After sending the Braves down 1-2-3 in the eighth, Hamels' pitch count was at 109. Hamels had thrown more than 115 pitches just once this season, in the fifth start of the season back in April.
But when his spot was coming up in the order in the top of the ninth, he quickly found his helmet and bat and avoided eye contact with Manuel on the way to the on-deck circle.
"I think in the back of his mind he might have thought we were going to pinch-hit or something if we had guys on second and third or something," Manuel said. "He was determined. He wanted a chance to finish it."
With an uncertain bullpen and a locked-in starter, Manuel opted with the latter. And he would be rewarded as Hamels, who threw a season-high 123 pitches, finished out Manuel's historic win.
Hamels hopes it's the first of a few more as the Phillies play out the final 44 games.
"To get a win for the team ," Hamels said. "I know we haven't done it much, but we've got to start something. The pride that we all have, it has to be for something. There aren't too many opportunities to play the game of baseball, it's winding down, and we better finish strong . . . How do you want to go out? How do you want to be remembered? It's more fun going out as a team and ultimately trying to finish strong."