John Smallwood: Who are these Phillies? Right now they are winners

Cole Hamels wasn't great but he was good enough to keep the Phils in the game last night vs. Arizona.
Cole Hamels wasn't great but he was good enough to keep the Phils in the game last night vs. Arizona.
Posted: July 28, 2010

IT WAS ANOTHER moment of truth for Cole Hamels. He was struggling on the mound.

Hamels had already endured a 31-pitch first inning during which he walked in the game's first run with two outs.

He'd created the same scenario in the fourth but contained the damage and again gave up just one run.

Now in the fifth inning, Hamels had another full house with two outs.

He'd already thrown more than 100 pitches but nobody was even warming up in the Phillies bullpen.

This was Hamels' mess to clean up. Help was not coming.

On another night, Hamels' three-pitch strikeout of Rodrigo Lopez could be qualified by the fact that he was the opposing pitcher. But this wasn't an ordinary night for Hamels.

This wasn't anything like his last three starts when he'd given up just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings.

Last night, "best stuff" was not in Hamels' repertoire.

Still, there was something to admire about Hamels' less-than-stellar outing.

Sometimes it's not about winning a game late. Sometimes it's about not losing a game early.

That's what Hamels did in the Phillies' 9-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park.

Hamels could have imploded. He got into the type of jam that could have easily resulted in the Diamondbacks scoring six or seven runs before the game wasn't half done.

Yet, somehow after throwing 108 pitches, giving up six hits, walking four, hitting two batters and loading the bases three times in five innings, Hamels left the game with the Phillies holding a 4-3 lead.

"I thought Hamels had good stuff," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "His command was off some but he wasn't wild.

"He held the game close. We ended up winning."

This is the magic of baseball.

Hamels had been spectacular in his last two starts, giving up just one run over 15 innings.

He deserved better than two no-decisions, but the Phillies won both games.

Last night, it took an entirely different route to end up with the same result.

And at this juncture, when the Phillies are fighting to catch back up to the Atlanta Braves in the race for the National League East, positive results - no matter how they come about - are the only things that matters.

The Phillies won.

Atlanta lost 3-0 to the Washington Nationals.

A week ago, the Phillies were seven games behind the Braves and considered a floundering ship.

Today, they've won a season-high six straight and trail Atlanta by 3 1/2 games.

Again, that's how things change in baseball.

A year ago in July, the Phillies put together a 10-game winning streak that extended a two-game lead to 6 1/2 games.

That lead never dwindled to three games as the Phillies went on to win a third straight NL East title and ultimately a second consecutive National League pennant.

Obviously, it's a little different this time.

Things got even more complicated for the Phillies with shortstop Jimmy Rollins missing last night's game with a bruised foot and centerfielder Shane Victorino having to leave in the seventh inning after straining his left oblique muscle while making a running catch.

How do you get an accurate read on this team?

When you look at which players have been out and which ones are still out, it's easy to say it's simply not the Phillies' year.

When you think about how "you know who" could have been at the top of this rotation with Roy Halladay and Hamels, you figure the Phillies' inconsistency in pitching is the reaping from what they sowed by trading "you know who."

When you hear stories about Houston Astros ace Roy Oswalt not wanting to play in Philadelphia, do you really want general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to even make a play for him?

When you look at the approaching trade deadline and know that subtracting free-agent-to-be rightfielder Jayson Werth, who just happened to hit his first home run since June 23, you wonder how an offense that has run hot and cold all season can ever find any consistency.

When you see Rollins and Victorino go down, you wonder if this team will ever catch a break.

If you look at the overall picture of the Phillies, it's easy to come up with reasons for why this might not be their year.

But you look at what's right in front of you and there they are - right in the thick of things with a lot of season left to play before anything is decided.

A game like last night when Hamels struggled mightily but managed to keep the Phillies in the game so that his teammates could bring it home is exactly the type of character that has personified this team during their last two championship seasons.

It doesn't have to be pretty.

It doesn't have to be neat.

It just has to be done.

"The only thing that's changed is we've been winning games," Manuel said.

That's the only change that was needed.

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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