NEW YORK - There was no reason to believe it ended Tuesday at 9:27 p.m. with an 87-m.p.h. cutter that Daniel Murphy rolled to second base. Cole Hamels did not pause for a moment to savor his effort, eight shutout innings in a 6-0 Phillies win over the Mets. On Sunday, he should arrive at Nationals Park for his 264th career start, all with the Phillies.
"All I know is I signed here for a very extended period of time," Hamels said. "So that's what I'm going to uphold, to be a Phillie as long as I possibly can because I enjoy it."
The Phillies would contradict years of rhetoric by trading Hamels within the next two days. But they are on pace for 71 wins, Hamels is throwing a baseball better than ever, and contenders salivate. That generates trade whispers.
But every fifth day, Hamels makes everyone associated with the Phillies forget their current predicament. He has a sterling 2.55 ERA - it's 1.58 since June 1 - that does not begin to describe the brand of dominance emanating from his left arm.
"It looks like he's stepped it up a notch," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Motivated, stepped up. It really gives us a lift to watch that, to have him be the guy on the mound for us."
Rival executives have expressed confusion about the Phillies' strategy this month. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. promised change three weeks ago. He has shopped every player on his roster in an effort to improve the franchise's fate. He did not make a trade last July.
There is one certainty: The Phillies must be overwhelmed to trade Hamels, 30. They have demanded, according to multiple reports, that a team assume all of the $96 million left over the final four years of the lefthander's contract and at least that team's top three prospects.
Hamels, by definition, is "available." The asking price is exorbitant, but that is what a pitcher of Hamels' caliber commands. The top free agents this winter - Max Scherzer and Jon Lester - will sign for a longer term and more money than the remainder of Hamels' current deal. Lester will be 31 by April and Scherzer turns 31 next summer. Hamels has a lower ERA and more postseason experience than either one of them.
He is a known commodity as opposed to prospects, which the Phillies covet. Those minor-league players, however, could be the game's most overvalued currency. The Phillies could stockpile some prospects - albeit not elite ones - in exchange for other assets.
Amaro is not operating under an edict to clear payroll. Team president David Montgomery told The Inquirer last month he will not endorse a complete rebuild. Trading Hamels would signal such a movement; the organization is stripped of pitching depth. Cliff Lee is under contract for 2015, but the team will look to move him either now or in the winter. A.J. Burnett could retire. Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are free agents. That leaves David Buchanan and a mishmash of young arms recovering from shoulder ailments.
Hamels acknowledged the trade talk. Then he referenced Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones as exceptions, players who spent their careers with one club.
"I'd be surprised," Sandberg said, when asked about a possible Hamels trade. "But that's not really my department. I'm not totally sure what conversations are going on. I sure like when he takes the mound for us."
Three homers Tuesday supported Hamels. Jimmy Rollins and Grady Sizemore cracked solo shots to nudge the Phillies ahead. Chase Utley smashed a Josh Edgin fastball for his first grand slam since Sept. 2, 2010.
Hamels handled the rest, a sight Phillies fans have witnessed for nine years. The constant rumors insist these nights are to be cherished.