Hamels handcuffs Braves in Manuel's 1,000th win

Posted: August 14, 2013

ATLANTA - The remnants of a depleted crowd chanted "Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!" when Cole Hamels threw his 84th pitch of the damp night. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman waved at the majestic change-up that scraped the soaked dirt in the sixth inning. Carlos Ruiz hopped, ripped off his mask, and shouted at Hamels after the strikeout.

"I know we haven't done it much, but we've got to start something," Hamels said. "The pride that we all have, it has to be for something. There's not too many opportunities to play the game of baseball."

Something finally instilled pride in these melancholy Phillies. It manifested in the form of their lanky lefthanded pitcher, who delivered a 5-1 victory - the 1,000th of Charlie Manuel's career - over first-place Atlanta on Monday. If there is any consolation to a lost season, it is the $144 million ace's evolution from a horrid beginning to 2013.

Hamels tossed a dominant complete game on 123 pitches to lower his ERA to 3.65. That figure is 2.67 since June 1. His 1.98 mark since July 1 is 10th best in baseball. Rookie Cody Asche's three-run homer provided the necessary support.

For one night, Hamels flipped the narrative with nine strikeouts. The distress started here, at Turner Field, with five mediocre Hamels innings on opening day. Monday marked the Phillies' first trip to Georgia since the season's inauguration, and much has changed. The Braves are all but assured of their first National League East crown since 2005.

This win snapped an 11-game road losing streak, the Phillies' longest since 1999. The Phillies hit .194 and pitched to a 6.65 ERA in their previous 11 road games. They were 3-17 in their last 20 overall; Atlanta was 17-3.

Gratification was delayed by rain. The tarp was twice deployed; the second instance interrupted the starting pitchers' warm-up routines. The first pitch happened 1 hour and 48 minutes late. Much of the game was played in a steady mist.

Maybe there will come a day when the base signed by the entire Phillies team to commemorate another milestone in Manuel's career will mean something. It was not Monday. Not now, not when the Phillies slog toward an undeniable fate, which will likely end the 69-year-old manager's tenure.

No, on this night it was just another round number in a game obsessed with its digits. These Phillies are on pace for 73 wins. Manuel has never guided a losing team over a full season in the majors.

With his career in limbo, and an agonizing team in front of him, Manuel is anguished.

"It's definitely quite an achievement," said Manuel, who credited his players in Philadelphia and Cleveland. "I'm sure later on it probably means a lot more to me than right now."

He became the 58th manager in baseball history to reach that plateau. He has already sealed his legacy as the winningest manager in 130 years of Phillies baseball. Those credentials may not prevent the Phillies from hiring a replacement this fall when Manuel's contract expires.

Hamels is guaranteed a longer tenure. He turns 30 this winter, and the Phillies are determined to build a successful pitching staff around the homegrown lefty. Hamels won his 96th career game, all with Manuel as his manager.

"There's a lot of people who have 1,000 wins," Manuel said. "It might mean something to me one of these days. It's good in some ways. I understand it. It means that my players have been good; my teams have been good. That's how I look at it. I'd like to win more."

After Sept. 29, when the season concludes here at Turner Field, Manuel may have to find those wins elsewhere.

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

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