There was no wincing, no shaking of the arm, no visible sign of pain. Just an emotionless expression and a 9-1 lead over the Marlins that two innings later would become a 9-1 win.
And, afterward, there was this comforting declaration from Hamels:
"Oh yeah," the lefty said when asked if he would make his next start.
The official word from the club was tightness in Hamels' lower back. Hamels said he felt it set in while sitting on the bench during the bottom of the seventh inning. He mentioned something to Ruiz, but headed back to the mound. At that point, he had allowed three baserunners and one run in seven innings, retiring 17 consecutive batters after allowing back-to-back singles in the first.
He seemed certain to log his third consecutive start of at least eight innings. Instead, he walked Wes Helms, and the Phillies decided to play it safe on a chilly night.
Manager Charlie Manuel described the injury as a "knot" and said, "I don't think it's serious. He should be fine."
"He got stiff," Manuel said. "The wind was blowing, it was kind of cool, he was sitting there [in the dugout] for a while. We'll know more [today]. I don't think it's serious."
Hamels' next scheduled start is Sunday in Seattle. Thanks to today's day-night doubleheader, no other Phillies starter will be on normal rest. The club already needs a spot starter for Saturday's game.
But Hamels doesn't think it will be an issue.
"I don't want to pull myself out of a game, ever . . . But when you have a little doubt, you might as well not try to force anything," he said. "The temperature of my body kind of went cold. I was stiffening up. To try and go out and pitch at your best when you're stiff, that's obviously just an opportunity to put yourself in a bad situation and an opportunity to get hurt. That's not what I want to do. I want to make every single start and be healthy."
Anybody other than Hamels will be hard-pressed to match the dominance he has displayed throughout this season.
After allowing his only run in the first, Hamels retired the side in order in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, finally surrendering a hit to Sanchez in the seventh. (Logan Morrison reached base on Ryan Howard's first error of the season to lead off the inning.)
But Hamels, as he has done all season, delivered all the right pitches at all the right times. With runners on first and third and one out in the seventh, he recorded back-to-back strikeouts of John Buck and Omar Infante to escape damage.
Until the injury, Hamels (9-2) seemed sure to record his third straight start of eight innings or more. Instead, he retired to the clubhouse having allowed one run and four baserunners with six strikeouts in seven innings, lowering his already-impressive ERA to 2.49.
The injury brought a screeching halt to the electricity that pulsed through Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies' lineup partied like it was 2007, getting home runs from Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and two from rookie rightfielder Domonic Brown, whose second bomb reached the second deck of the rightfield seats.
It was Brown's fourth home run of the season and the first multiple home-run game of his budding career. Howard's two-run blast with two outs in the first was his 14th of the season and the seventh of his career against Chris Volstad, who by the end of the night had allowed hits to the Phillies' first baseman in 12 of his 24 at-bats against the Marlins righthander.
Utley's home run, a two-run shot off Volstad with two outs in the third, was his third since coming off the disabled list. Rollins' home run was also a two-run, two-out dinger off Volstad.
The Phillies are 41-26. Until Hamels' injury, there wasn't much to worry about. According to the lefty, there still isn't.
"The pitches weren't going exactly where I wanted [them] to," he said. "I felt it wasn't a good idea to push it when I didn't need to."
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.
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