Hamels dazzles as Phillies beat Brewers, 4-3

Posted: August 19, 2012

MILWAUKEE - They awoke Saturday at 20 games back of first place, a low not encountered for more than a decade, and so the Phillies arrived at Miller Park for another night of playing out the string. The final six weeks of banal baseball will inspire platitudes, but at least every fifth day Charlie Manuel can lean back and say, "We've got Hamels pitching."

Manuel did just that before a 4-3 Phillies victory over the Brewers as he plopped down on the wooden bench in the visiting dugout. Cole Hamels is his $144 million arm, and while the air cools and a city's focus shifts to football, he is the best reason left for watching a team headed nowhere in 2012.

Hamels' scoreless streak ended at 23 innings once Aramis Ramirez mashed a change-up deep to left to lead off the second inning. His 107th pitch of the night, an ill-fated 91-m.p.h. fastball, landed as a two-run homer for Ryan Braun in the eighth. That tainted what otherwise was a pristine outing: 72/3 innings, three runs, eight hits, one walk, and 10 strikeouts.

It still resulted in victory thanks to a four-out Jonathan Papelbon save. There were no bullpen tryouts on this night.

Hamels (14-6) dazzled even with the final blemish. In four August starts, Hamels has permitted five earned runs in 322/3 innings with 30 strikeouts and three walks. It's his best pitching of the season.

With his sublime month, his candidacy for the National League Cy Young Award gains relevancy. Hamels has cracked the list of contenders for pitching's top prize. Last year's winner, Clayton Kershaw, is certainly one. The rest of the list is dotted by lesser-known quantities like Johnny Cueto, R.A. Dickey, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. Yet each can lay claim to consideration in mid-August.

Hamels could make eight more starts in 2012. If this trend continues, he'll have a legitimate case.

"If you're able to be in that sort of run," Hamels said, "it means you're keeping yourself healthy, you're pitching deep into ballgames and you're doing everything you're working toward in the offseason and spring training. I would take that credit over anything, knowing I was accountable for everything I did."

Hamels leads the league in innings pitched (1711/3), ranks ninth in ERA (2.94), third in strikeouts (168) and is tied for first with two shutouts. Manuel is fond at the idea of a Hamels run at the award.

"I'll go for that," he said. "That would be good."

Once Braun jacked his 33d homer of the season - six of which have come against the Phillies, his most victimized opponent - Manuel called for Papelbon. The richest closer in baseball had pitched only once in the team's previous five games. He secured his fourth save of more than an inning by recording the game's final four outs. Thirteen of his 15 pitches were strikes and he fanned three.

Hamels was fortunate to hand a lead to Papelbon because Braun missed a two-run home run by inches when he bashed one off the yellow lining atop the wall in left.

"I got lucky on that one," Hamels said. "I guess you can't get lucky twice."

The Phillies will see Braun for only one more day in 2012, and perhaps they should explore a different approach Sunday. He is hitting .565 (13 for 23) with six homers, two doubles, nine runs scored and 10 RBIs against them this season. That's all in six measly games.

Enough support for Hamels came in the form of back-to-back bombs from John Mayberry Jr. and Erik Kratz. Those three second-inning runs, plus a run-scoring double in the third from Ryan Howard, pushed the Phillies ahead for good.

And so they went to bed 19 games back of first place.

Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.


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