Hamels pitches a gem

JIM McISAAC/GETTY IMAGES Cole Hamels hurled eight shutout innings, striking out eight while walking no one.
JIM McISAAC/GETTY IMAGES Cole Hamels hurled eight shutout innings, striking out eight while walking no one.
Posted: July 31, 2014

NEW YORK - Cole Hamels owns a TV.

Even if he did not, there are several in every major league clubhouse he walks into everyday. And those TVs are almost always tuned into a sports channel broadcasting baseball games and baseball chatter.

With less than 48 hours before major league baseball's nonwaiver trade deadline, Hamels took the mound at Citi Field knowing his name had been talked about more than a couple times in the last day. It's safe to say he has been unaffected by it.

Hamels hurled eight shutout innings, striking out eight while walking no one, in a 6-0 win over the Mets last night.

"It's not something I can [control]," Hamels said. "I understand the nature of the business. I'll never have hard feelings because it's a tough position for an organization to be in, for fans, for other teams.

"If you start putting the pressure on yourself then you're taking away the focus of what your job is, which is to pitch deep into ballgames and win ballgames for whatever team I'm on. I just enjoy pitching for this team and that's what I'm doing at this moment."

The chatter is likely to be just that - talk that fills up programming time and ends up producing nothing worth talking about after tomorrow's 4 p.m. deadline. And then Hamels can throw his between-starts bullpen session and prep for his Sunday start in Washington, where he can hope to continue his current, dominant run.

Hamels has been close to unhittable for 2 months. He has a 1.58 ERA (15 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings) in 12 starts since June 1.

After seeing the Phillies lose seven of his first eight starts, Hamels has helped guide them to victories in eight of his last 11 starts.

"Just the way he attacks the hitters and throws with aggressiveness and conviction, he executes the pitches, throwing them where they have to be, and having a game plan," manager Ryne Sandberg said of the confidence Hamels has been pitching with in that time. "He sees what's working each game and makes those adjustments."

But unlike seven of the previous 10 starts - and each of the five he had made in July - the Phillies managed to score more than three runs. Hamels had offensive support in the form of three home runs, giving him the rarity of all rarities: an easy win.

Jimmy Rollins hit his 14th home run in the third inning to put the Phillies in front, 1-0. Grady Sizemore followed an inning later with a solo shot of his own, his first since joining the Phillies earlier this month.

In the seventh, the Mets attempted to keep within striking distance against Hamels when they summoned lefthander Josh Edgin to face Chase Utley with the bases loaded and two outs. Utley watched two strikes cross the plate, fouled off two more pitches and then teed up a 94-mph fastball left over the heart of the plate.

Utley's first grand slam in 4 years landed in the second deck of the rightfield seats. It gave Hamels a commanding, 6-0 lead.

"I think he appreciated it a lot," Sandberg said of Hamels, who had seen his team score two runs or fewer in seven of his 18 starts coming into the game.

"To get that good cushion makes it easier for what I have to do out there," Hamels said.

Hamels wasn't dialing up 95-mph fastballs like he was last week in South Philly, but he didn't have to in handcuffing the Mets. He held New York to six hits; only one of those hits went for extra bases (a David Wright double) and two of the five singles never left the infield.

He retired the final 13 hitters he faced, posting perfect frames in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Hamels was lifted after throwing 109 pitches (82 for strikes) in favor of young righthander Ken Giles and the rookie finished off the shutout.

"He was pitching like an ace," catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "He was mixing everything. He was working his changeup when he needed it and his cutter was working tonight. His control was right there."

Hamels is 6-5 with a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts. Only five National League pitchers have better ERAs.

In his last three starts, Hamels has faced 86 batters and struck out 27 of them while walking just one.

"Everything is just kind of feeling good enough to throw everything in every count and not fear the results," Hamels said. "I think that just kind of puts all the momentum back on my side."

Last night marked the first time in nearly 2 years (Aug. 7-18, 2012) that Hamels had reeled off wins in three consecutive starts. Of course, run support helps.

But with the way Hamels has pitched in the last 2 months, he doesn't even seem to need more than a couple runs. And on a team that's 13 games under .500, Sandberg is glad to have Hamels on his side and doesn't expect that to change in the next 2 days.

"You know what, I'd be surprised," Sandberg said when asked what he'd think if the mostly mindless rumor-mill talk somehow churned out a Hamels' trade. "But that's not really my department. I'm not totally sure what conversations are going on. I sure like when he takes the mound for us."

"All I know," Hamels said, "is I signed here for a very extended period of time so that's what I'm going to uphold to be a Phillie as long as I possibly can, because I enjoy it. This is a great organization to me and the fans have been outstanding. This is the place that I want to win again."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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