Brignac lifts Phillies in dramatic fashion with walkoff homer

Posted: June 13, 2014

BEFORE COLE Hamels took the mound at Citizens Bank Park last night, he had made 42 starts since his $144 million contract extension began.

But all the Phillies got for their efforts to lock up their homegrown ace to the largest contract in franchise history was a 15-27 record. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, the Phillies were 12 games under .500 in the games Hamels had started.

It was hardly any fault of his. He had a 3.58 ERA in that span. That number was lowered to 3.48 last night.

In those 42 starts, Hamels had allowed more than four runs only seven times. He held his opponent to three runs or fewer in 33 of those 42 games.

The trouble, of course, was run support. Hamels had the ninth-lowest run support average per start (3.36) in baseball last year. Since the beginning of 2013, the Phillies had scored three runs or fewer in 22 of his 42 starts.

Following a brilliant effort in Cincinnati 5 nights earlier, Hamels was dominating again against the San Diego Padres. But when he walked off the mound after eight shutout innings, the Phillies had yet to score a run.

They didn't score in the bottom of the eighth, either. But they managed to put three runs across and win in dramatic fashion in the ninth. Reid Brignac slugged a three-run homer off San Diego righthander Nick Vincent with one out to walk the Phillies off with a 3-0 victory.

"It felt good to come through for my teammates," Brignac said. "Cole pitched outstanding tonight and kept us in the game all night and kept their hitters off-balance. He's the true winner in this game."

"It's all about the team winning," Hamels said. "As long as the 'W' is next to the team, it's everybody's."

It was the second straight win for the Phillies (27-36), and it's the first time they've won consecutive games since May 18 and 20.

"Cole was outstanding," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "You don't want to waste an effort like that. So for the guys to rally there and pull it out and have a couple wins in a row, it can be big for us."

The win marked the first time the Phillies had won back-to-back games Hamels had started since Sept. 8 and 14, 2013. Hamels laid the groundwork in each of those games.

After shutting out the Reds over 7 2/3 innings on Friday, the San Diego native held the Padres to five hits in eight shutout innings. Hamels struck out 11, while walking just one.

The double-digit strikeout game was the 26th of Hamels' career, moving him ahead of Hall of Famer Jim Bunning in the Phillies' record book. Only Steve Carlton (70) and Curt Schilling (48) have more double-digit strikeout games in a Phillies uniform.

Hamels has not allowed a run in 16 2/3 innings. He lowered his season ERA to 3.07 after 10 starts.

"I've been feeling good out there," said Hamels, who had a 3-week delay to the start of his season after battling biceps tendinitis last winter.

But Hamels has looked both strong and healthy in the last month. After throwing 125 pitches in each of his previous two starts, Hamels threw 115 last night.

He had been feeling so good that he lobbied earlier this week to jump ahead of Kyle Kendrick in the rotation to stay on his fifth day, following Monday's day off in the Phillies' schedule.

"I have been feeling comfortable and confident with the workout programs I have," Hamels said. "I have everything pretty wired in, so I want to stick to that and not change things. I don't want an extra day now, because there's no need. I'm happy they gave it to me."

The Phillies' bats didn't do Hamels any favors in exchange for his stellar work. They had five singles in the game's first eight innings and had a baserunner reach third base only twice.

But after Marlon Byrd struck out for the fourth time in four at-bats to begin the ninth, Domonic Brown began the rally with a walk. Carlos Ruiz then got hit by a pitch.

With the game-winning run in scoring position, Brignac could have won the game with a well-hit single. Instead, he left no doubt.

Brignac swatted a 2-0 slider deep into the seats beyond the rightfield wall.

It was Brignac's second game-winning hit in less than 2 weeks. He delivered a walkoff hit in the Phillies' 6-5, 14-inning win over the Mets two Fridays ago.

It was the second walkoff home run of his career. The previous one came four seasons ago, in September 2010 while with the Tampa Bay Rays. That home run gave Tampa a half-game lead over New York in the American League East standings.

"Both are great in their own way," Brignac said. "In Tampa, it was late in the season and it put us in first place at the time. In this situation, we've been fighting and clawing, lost a few tough games on the last road trip. But to come back yesterday and win and then today, it is something we can build from."

Hamels wasn't able to extend his own win streak; Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched the ninth, got the win. But he didn't care, either, so long as he set the tone for a team victory.

"I'd like to win them all and my fellow starters to win their starts, too," Hamels said. "But if we can get in a rhythm and put together a streak . . . I want them to know I will give them something they can play behind."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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