"It was a long night," Hamels said. "But the next morning, I knew how to clear my head."
In seven innings against the division-rival Braves, he dominated. He struck out eight, walked one, and allowed four hits - none until the fourth - and kept Atlanta off the board in a textbook win for the Phillies. Expect many more like this: In 2 hours, 20 minutes, the starter went seven, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras handled the end, and the offense did just enough.
And if Shane Victorino was able to make that difficult catch Friday night, who knows, maybe this series would have ended up as a sweep. Regardless, the 7-2 Phillies feel good about how the first three encounters of 18 this season with the Braves went.
"We're happy with the way things turned out," said Victorino, who went 9 for 13 this weekend and homered Sunday.
Hamels made it stand up. Pitching in an environment 32 degrees warmer than his season debut in Philadelphia, the lefty found the later innings to be a challenge. He never reached the seventh in spring training.
It's impossible to simulate the activity of (and inactivity between) pitching seven innings in the spring, and that was a wall Hamels faced Sunday.
Early in the morning, he rode the same stationary bike Manuel did while reading the best-selling novel The Girl Who Played With Fire. Then, he put cuff weights on his wrists and stood in the middle of the room watching ESPN while exercising his shoulders.
The diligence paid off at the very end in the humidity. In the sixth and seventh innings, Hamels wiggled out of trouble. He finished with 102 pitches, and that was enough on this day.
"When he had to make a good pitch, he did," Manuel said.
The biggest was the last one: an outside cutter to Atlanta rookie Freddie Freeman with runners on the corners. Hamels easily recorded the first two outs of the inning but surrendered singles to Jason Heyward and Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez fouled off four pitches; on the ninth one, he lined a change-up to center.
That prompted a visit from pitching coach Rich Dubee, who brought with him a scouting report on Freeman - but more important, brought a chance for Hamels to breathe. Freeman swung at the first pitch and broke his bat on a soft grounder to second.
"It was probably my best cutter all day," Hamels said.
Hamels said it was probably helpful to have a few days in the new climate to gain a feel for the ball and adjust. He called the temperature change from start to start "definitely a test."
"You have to reserve your energy and strength to make it a longer game," Hamels said.
He did that Sunday. There were many moments of brilliance, like a 3-1 change-up to Heyward that painted the outside corner and set up a groundout on a 95-m.p.h. outside fastball.
But mostly, there was Hamels, doing as he did all last year and so many times before.
"He was ready to go today," Manuel said. "He was definitely ready to pitch."
IP H R ER BB K ERA
7 4 0 0 1 8 5.59
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at email@example.com.
Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/magelb