Bullpen support a relief to Hamels

Posted: August 22, 2014

AS THE Philadelphia region prepared itself for the main event of the day's sporting schedule, a Little League game played out during a long inning at Citizens Bank Park on yesterday afternoon.

And not of the high-caliber kind that's being played this week in Williamsport. More of the endless, error-filled brand of ball found at your local recreation league fields each weekend in the spring.

The fourth inning of a matinee between the Phillies and Seattle Mariners featured a wild pitch, a passed ball, two errors, Cole Hamels' pitch count nearing 90, and one baserunner caught between third and home when his teammate missed a bunt sign.

Perhaps because they've been accustomed to playing plenty of bad baseball games over the last 2-plus years, the Phillies prevailed and collected their first series win in 2 weeks.

The Phils scored three times in the bottom of the fourth, erasing an early deficit, and then rode the young relief arms of Jake Diekman and Ken Giles en route to a 4-3 win over the Mariners.

"It's one of those moments where you need everybody behind you - everyone was able to deliver," said Hamels, crediting defensive plays by Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf and third baseman Andres Blanco that helped him escape further trouble.

After an error on Seattle starter James Paxton, a passed ball and an infield single set up the inning, Chase Utley poked a blooping single into shallow rightfield to give the Phillies their first lead in the game. That's where the ugliness - and the scoring - ended for both teams.

That was in large part due to a couple of Phillies relievers that took over the game, using their fastballs to flirt with the radar gun, both nearing triple digits with their pitches.

"For them to come up in a tight game, preserve the lead and put the zeros up there - huge today," manager Ryne Sandberg said.

"They're coming out firing and that's fun to see," Hamels said of Diekman and Giles. "That's the type of baseball you want to see . . . throwing the 95-plus and they don't show fear. And that's what you want . . . they don't show fear and our guys definitely don't."

Diekman took over for Hamels in the sixth. He struck out four of the eight batters he faced in two shutout innings.

Diekman threw 18 of his 28 pitches for strikes. His fastball hovered between 95-98 mph.

But Diekman bypassed the fastballs and threw three consecutive sliders to dispose of Robinson Cano on strikes for the second out of the seventh, and then dialed up 99-mph to punch out All-Star Kyle Seager, the last hitter he faced in his two-inning outing.

"He has an edge and when he's pounding the zone, he tends to get a little bit frustrated when he's not locating his pitches well," Sandberg said. "When he's locating his fastball and getting ahead of the pitchers it goes a long way."

Giles followed. The rookie righthander struck out three of the four he faced in the eighth, before passing the baton to Jonathan Papelbon for the save in the ninth.

Giles, who has been in the big-leagues for all of 10 weeks, has struck out 44 of the 108 batters (40.7 percent) he's faced this season. Hamels called the 23-year-old Giles "a Brad Lidge in the making."

"He's the only guy that comes to mind that threw hard and had a incredible slider," Hamels said. "And I think Giles throws a little harder than Brad, which makes his slider more dramatic and devastating to hitters. He's the type of guy who's going to be a closer for a long time."

But the future closer instead said he has drawn inspiration from the current closer.

"Right now, I have tons of confidence in myself," Giles said. "But I have tons of confidence in everyone on that field. I think it all starts with Pap. It all goes with the confidence he has on that mound."

After Papelbon kept the bullpen's momentum going in the ninth, Hamels' seventh win of the season was secure. In going just five innings (on 99 pitches), Hamels had his shortest start since July 2.

He allowed nine hits - one shy of tying a season-high - and three runs. Hamels uncorked two wild pitches and served up a home run, too.

"It was a struggle for Cole today," Sandberg said. "He wasn't quite himself."

But the pitcher often victimized by hard luck on low-run support was finally smiled upon by the baseball gods. The victory was his first in four starts, and just his sixth in 16 starts since the beginning of June.

Hamels has a 1.77 ERA in that 12-week span.

"He was due for a win like this, without his best stuff and his teammates picking him up," Sandberg said.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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