Bats All Right Hamels gets the win as Phillies outslug the Padres.

Posted: July 24, 2009

Every Cole Hamels start this season begins with a series of questions. Will he pitch like an ace? Will he be the inconsistent enigma who has often appeared and reappeared this year? Why has he been so unpredictable?

The final query has not yet been answered, but except for a three-run fourth inning, Hamels moved forward last night. The Phillies defeated the San Diego Padres, 9-4, at Citizens Bank Park, behind Hamels and an offense that collected 14 hits. The Phils have won 11 of their last 12.

"He's still trying to find where he's supposed to be," manager Charlie Manuel said of Hamels. "He's getting there."

It was a game that the Padres would probably have preferred not to play at all. The original date was rained out April 20, the only time this season San Diego was scheduled to visit. So the Padres, after losing Wednesday afternoon to Florida in San Diego, flew to Washington, slept there, and rode a bus to Philadelphia this morning. After the game, they drove south again, and will face the Nationals tonight.

For their trouble, the Padres were mostly forced to deal with the effective version of Hamels, who allowed no runs other than the three he surrendered in the fourth. Hamels' velocity and command have wavered at times this year, and both looked strong in the early part of the game.

His fastball reached 93 m.p.h. in the first inning, and he retired the first three San Diego batters in order, punctuating the impressive start with a swinging strikeout of slugger Adrian Gonzalez. The up-and-down ace allowed just a single over the next two innings, working briskly after the offense gave him an early lead with four runs in the first three innings.

The Phillies sent up eight batters and scored three runs in the second inning off Padres starter Kevin Correia. Jayson Werth began it with the first of his two doubles.

But the top of the fourth threatened to undermine Hamels' night and create more concern. The inning was marred by a two-out RBI double by Chase Headley, followed by Kyle Blanks' second major-league home run.

Hamels conceded that in that inning, he allowed his concentration to lapse. His command went with it, and he fell behind hitters. "That puts me in a situation where I can easily give up those big home runs, those big two-out doubles," he said.

Unlike some recent outings, though, Hamels was able to adjust and regroup after his midgame trouble. Before the fifth and sixth innings, he used his warm-up pitches to give him increased focus and intensity, and the strategy worked.

"You can't lose it for a whole inning," he said. "You can only lose it for maybe a hitter, and then you really have to get it back. I wasn't able to get it back, but luckily I did for the next few innings."

Before the game, pitching coach Rich Dubee said that Hamels needed to learn to cope better on nights when his best stuff was not there. "He's got to get to the point where, 'OK, I'm not 100 percent today. I don't have my best stuff today. That doesn't mean I can't still pitch a gem.' "

By that measure, Hamels progressed last night, and proved that he could take advantage of a strong offensive performance, even in a game when his repertoire was less than sharp.

Of course, he would prefer to have his best stuff, and he believes he will find it before the end of the year. "If I keep going out there and trying, I will be able to work it out," he said.

Contact staff writer Andy Martino at 215-854-4874 or amartino@phillynews.com.

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