Phillies scratch out just enough offense to beat Rockies

Cole Hamels struck out eight and allowed one run in eight innings against the Rockies. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)
Cole Hamels struck out eight and allowed one run in eight innings against the Rockies. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 18, 2011

More than once during spring training, Charlie Manuel laughed at the idea of small ball. To him, small ball was being aggressive - stealing bases, hit-and-runs, and green lights - when the situation called for such. His teams would not bunt for the sake of bunting.

But to snap a four-game losing streak, small ball came to Citizens Bank Park in a 2-1 defeat of the Colorado Rockies. The Phillies overcame a lack of discipline at the plate and a complete game by Jorge De La Rosa and won by scoring with the help of a passed ball, wild pitch, sacrifice bunt, and sacrifice fly.

Cole Hamels dazzled for eight innings, handing it off to Ryan Madson for his seventh save in as many chances. It was hairy, with two runners getting on before Jason Giambi became the third Colorado hitter to swing and miss at a Madson pitch for strike three.

Never mind the fact the Phillies had five hits again, marking the fifth straight game of five or fewer hits. That is the longest such streak for this franchise since 1969, and that Phillies team finished 63-99.

This win at least avoided a five-game losing streak, which was the longest such skid in 2010. With this pitching staff, it was hard to imagine any prolonged losing streak like that. A meager offense can do wonders.

The eventual winning run scored in the eighth when Wilson Valdez led off with a single. Shane Victorino, still not healthy enough to play, but good enough to bunt, pinch-hit and laid down a sacrifice. A wild pitch moved Valdez to third. He arrived home just ahead of a Ryan Spilborghs throw on Jimmy Rollins' sacrifice fly.

To save it, Madson navigated his most strenuous outing yet. He had not pitched in five days and allowed a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Seth Smith. The next two batters struck out on his devastating change-up.

After a meeting on the mound with the infielders and pitching coach Rich Dubee, Madson opted to pitch around Todd Helton, who was 5 for 10 lifetime against him and already doubled to tie the game, to face pinch-hitter Jason Giambi. With a 2-2 count, Madson threw him a 93 m.p.h. fastball down the pile that Giambi swung through.

The pitching by Hamels and Madson is all that was pretty for the Phillies on this night.

They scored first largely due to a passed ball. Valdez, a prohibitive favorite to ground into a double play with runners on first and second, batted with one out in the fifth. The second pitch De La Rosa threw - a low, 92-m.p.h. fastball - glanced off catcher Chris Iannetta's glove and trickled far enough away for Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz to each advance a base.

Valdez hit the next pitch just past third baseman Jose Lopez for a run-scoring single. If the runners hadn't moved up thanks to the passed ball, Lopez could have been positioned differently to turn that grounder into an inning-ending double play.

But De La Rosa was hardly forced to labor. In eight innings, he threw 96 pitches. The most he needed in any one inning was 16. He had a nine-pitch second, an eight-pitch fourth, and a nine-pitch sixth. Most troublesome is all three of those innings were against either the top or middle of the Phillies' lineup.

Hamels was just as good. He allowed the Rockies to tie the game in the seventh when Carlos Gonzalez, third in National League MVP voting a season ago, doubled to deep left-center. Two batters later, Helton burned Hamels for leaving a fastball up, stroking it the other way for a run-scoring double.

That was all Colorado mounted. Hamels threw 107 pitches, 69 of them for strikes. His season ERA is down to 2.92. He escaped trouble in the eighth when his final pitch of the night was a change-up that Dexter Fowler swung and missed at.

An inning later, the little things created a win for Hamels and the Phillies, and that was just fine on this night.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/magelb

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