Phillies roll, Hamels OK after scare
Utley's hit streak at 29; Howard belts NL-leading 34th homer
PHILADELPHIA -- As the Phillies consider trades geared toward next year, a big part of their future limped off the field on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, causing a collective gasp in the team's administration offices.Seeing rookie lefty Cole Hamels hobble off the mound aided by manager Charlie Manuel and trainer Jeff Cooper put a serious damper on a four-homer, 12-3 throttling of the Marlins. The lefty was pitching in the eighth inning, with the Phillies holding a nine-run lead. Manuel had slotted the rookie for between 115-120 pitches on the humid night, possibly because a day-night doubleheader loomed on Sunday. An error by Abraham Nunez and a walk to Dan Uggla put runners on first and second. Hamels struck out Alfredo Almezaga, then couldn't come up with Joe Borchard's scorched grounder. The ball ricocheted off Hamels' left leg, just below the knee, and rolled past Ryan Howard at first base. Hamels left the game and headed straight to the trainer's room. X-rays were negative and revealed a contusion. "When it first happens and your weight is bearing on that leg, my whole body just collapsed because it was hit so hard," Hamels said. "I was just laying there thinking, 'OK, I'm still there.' Then it was, 'OK, what hurts?' My knee feels fine and it felt like I just jammed my knee into a wall." Though still gimpy after the game, Hamels was able to joke about his injury. Wearing a wrap postgame, he was reveling in not having to discuss the latest in an injury-filled career. "It hurt for the few seconds, but walking it off, it feels perfectly fine now," Hamels said. "I think I'll be good to go." That allowed the rest of his teammates to enjoy a convincing win over Dontrelle Willis, who struggled for the second time this season against the Phillies. In two starts, the southpaw has allowed 14 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings. Perhaps Ricky Nolasco angered the Phils with Friday's near no-hitter, as Philadelphia punished Willis. As he's done since June 23, Chase Utley led the offense with a single and homer, with the two-run single in the third extending his hitting streak to 29 games. Ryan Howard, Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell also added homers in the attack. Willis' undoing came during a seven-run third inning, when the Phils sent 12 men to the plate and ran their lead to 8-1. The Marlins lefty struggled with his control in walking three and hitting another. Of his 33 pitches in facing 10 batters that inning, 17 were balls. If there was an omen, it was his pitch that sailed completely behind Danny Sandoval. Hitting Shane Victorino further complicated matters. Willis muffed a chance to escape trouble when he threw away Rowand's check-swing comebacker. Trying to get Victorino at second, Willis threw the ball into center field, allowing Hamels to score and Victorino to go to third. Utley's streak-extending single scored Victorino and Rowand. After Burrell struck out, Howard launched his 34th home run into the Phillies bullpen. Willis (6-8) didn't finish the inning. "That was my first time facing him and I was excited," Howard said. "I don't know if it was him out there today. His control was off." Grateful, Hamels (3-5) pitched until Borchard sent him to the trainer's room. He credited his effectiveness to an improved breaking ball, helping him to seven strikeouts and lowering his ERA to 5.71. "I'm starting to figure more and more out with my pitch selection," Hamels said. "I'm starting to adjust more to the league and starting to have fun." The Phillies also spared the local media of a postgame trade, as they did on Friday when they sent David Bell to Milwaukee. Bobby Abreu and Jon Lieber, the trade du jour (in a rumored package deal to the Yankees), were still in the clubhouse after the game. So were David Dellucci, Aaron Fultz and Rheal Cormier, with less than two days to go before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. "No trades tonight," Manuel said, laughing.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.