They had endured five days without a victory, mostly because of Hurricane Irene's wrath, and that made Monday sweeter. Shane Victorino's timely two-run blast in the eighth inning provided the 84th win of a season still on pace to smash franchise records. But the most important victory was not gained in the standings.
"I hope we keep that Cole the rest of the way," Victorino said. "He did a wonderful job tonight. I think he's back."
Hamels, pitching for the first time in 17 days, was brilliant. He returned to Great American Ballpark for the first time since a start that ended with a champagne shower last October. Questions about inflammation in his left shoulder were quickly eased.
In those six innings, Hamels fanned seven Reds and allowed two hits. His fastball velocity was slightly less than normal, but pitching coach Rich Dubee anticipated rust. It was far improved from his last start that prompted two weeks of concern and a stint on the disabled list.
Hamels said he felt no pain in his shoulder.
"If I ever did, I never would have made a start," Hamels said. "Because it's so late in the season, I want to be able to finish the season healthy and go into the postseason healthy. That's the ultimate goal."
The Reds were fortunate to even score once off Hamels. Only when Hunter Pence overran a fly ball to deep right and slipped on the warning track did Brandon Phillips reach on a fourth-inning triple. It was Cincinnati's first hit of the game, and a hit only by definition of the word.
Not another ball left the infield that inning, but Phillips scored on a groundout to second. That was all Cincinnati mustered. Hamels required just 34 pitches to record the first nine outs.
In the sixth inning of a tie game, Hamels surrendered a leadoff single to Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan advanced to third on a bunt and fly out, but no further. Hamels, taking advantage of a rookie hitter, dangled a 2-2 change-up that Dave Sappelt flailed at. It was his final pitch of the night.
"That's kind of where I'm really just testing the arm, in the situations with guys on, in crunch time and having to make pitches," Hamels said. "When you make the big pitches that's where you find where you're at."
The lead - created by Victorino's 15th home run - was tenuous in the eighth. With the tying run 90 feet away from the plate, Mike Stutes threw a 2-0 slider that Joey Votto, the National League's reigning MVP, harmlessly hit to second for the third out. A crisis was averted by the 24-year-old rookie righthander.
"That was the baseball gods with us," Manuel said.
Monday night will be recorded as just another win in a season full of them, but those in the visitors' clubhouse who watched Hamels viewed it as much, much more. Sometimes, it doesn't hurt to look at the bigger picture.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org or @magelb on Twitter.