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News » Another close call for Hamels, but Phillies beat Nationals for fifth straight win


Another close call for Hamels, but Phillies beat Nationals for fifth straight win


Another close call for Hamels, but Phillies beat Nationals for fifth straight win
IT WAS ONE of those situations that you might have joked about before the game, given the tough luck Cole Hamels has endured throughout the first 3 weeks of this 2009 season. And even the lefthander said afterward that the first thought that went through his mind was comedy rather than concern. An awkward plant on an innocuous bunt, a glove slamming on the ground in frustration, and a feeble warm-up pitch followed by a frustrated flip of the ball - this was the latest in the ongoing travails of Hamels, who left the Phillies' 7-1 win over the Nationals last night 4 1/3 innings into a dominant performance thanks to a mild sprained ankle.

"Some frustration, but almost comedy," said Hamels, who hadn't allowed a run before the mishap, which came 5 days after a line drive to the arm knocked him out of his previous start against the Brewers. "The last time I felt like I was doing well and then obviously got hit and it kind of knocked me out of the game; this time I felt like I was getting in a good groove again and it happens. I don't know what else to do but kind of laugh about it because it's not serious and I know I'll be able to come back out."

The good news from the Phillies' perspective is that Hamels was able to laugh about the situation, which occurred when he attempted to field a bunt by Nationals starter John Lannan in the fifth inning. The lefthander planted awkwardly and rolled his ankle, causing him to crumple to the turf as Lannan reached first on an infield single. At the time, it made for some tense moments at Citizens Bank Park. While the relievers in the Phillies' bullpen rose to their feet to monitor the situation, pitching coach Rich Dubee, manager Charlie Manuel and some members of the training staff jogged out to the mound to evaluate Hamels.

After one warmup pitch, Hamels caught the return throw from catcher Chris Coste, flipped it in Manuel's direction and walked off the mound in frustration.

"It didn't look that good, to be honest with you," said second baseman Chase Utley, who hit a two-run homer to help give the Phillies a 5-0 lead at the time. "I know he tried to throw another pitch and it didn't work out. Hopefully it's not too bad."

The early reports are that the ankle sprain is not severe. Hamels was examined by team doctor Michael Ciccotti, who was already at Citizens Bank Park to examine catcher Carlos Ruiz. X-rays were negative, and Hamels said the various tests that Ciccotti performed led him to believe that he will not miss much time.

Manuel said he will not have a good idea about Hamels' prognosis until today, when the Phillies' training staff has an opportunity to see how the ankle has responded to a night of rest. But because the Phillies have an off day tomorrow, it will give the lefthander an extra day between his next scheduled start, which is preliminarily set for Monday in St. Louis.

"Things are snowballing for the worse for me, but the team is winning," said Hamels, who pitched a career-high 227 1/3 innnings last season but through four starts has accumulated just 17 1/3. "It's one of those things where some random things happen. It's unfortunate, but truly nothing has been too serious. The last one wasn't bad . . . This ankle injury, it's not severe. I'm not planning on missing a start. Obviously we have to see how it feels in the next couple days, but I think it helps that we have an off day. So I'm on a 6-day recovery period instead of 5."

The positive news for Hamels is that he finally appears to be reaching the form he displayed last season, when he went 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA and won MVP honors in the World Series and National League Championship Series. He allowed just four hits against the Nationals, striking out four and walking two while throwing 61 pitches. His velocity sat in the low 90s, and he said that he felt like he had reached his top form for the first time this season.

Furthermore, the Phillies finally are living up to the expectations they set for themselves with last year's championship run. Utley hit two home runs, his sixth and seventh of the season, and went 3-for-4 while extending his team-leading RBI total to 20. Leftfielder Raul Ibanez hit his seventh home run of the season and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Perhaps the most impressive performance was that of righthander Chad Durbin (1-0), who was pressed into action when Hamels went down and responded by throwing 3 2/3 innings, allowing his only hit and run on a monster home run by Adam Dunn that reached the top rows of the second deck in rightfield. Because Hamels did not go five innings, Durbin earned the win.

The Phillies have won five consecutive games and are 11-8, a half game behind the Marlins in the National League East.

For at least 5 more days, however, the big news will surround the health of the team's No. 1 starter.

"I'm always concerned until you get in there and see exactly how bad he is hurt and how long he is going to be," Manuel said. "You are thinking about that during the game, but you try to continue on playing as hard as you can." *

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 29, 2009

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