In possible Series preview, Phils roll
Hamels cruises, while Howard homers twice, drives in four
PHILADELPHIA -- Go ahead, indulge yourself for a minute.Picture a night much chillier than the 79-degree, first-pitch temperature at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night. See yourself in something more substantial than shirt sleeves and shorts, perhaps fleece or a hooded sweatshirt. How does that feel? If this keeps up, the Phillies and Red Sox could be meeting again in the month that matters.
"It's two teams that are going to be there," said Shane Victorino, meaning the playoffs, and possibly the World Series. "Boston is there every year. We went there last year. Ultimately, if we keep doing what we're doing ..."Exactly. "We're heading in the right direction," Victorino said. "It's nice to think about October, but it's so far away. Let's not worry about thinking that far ahead." No one in either clubhouse was thinking about that on Monday, when the two leaders of the respective Eastern divisions met for the opener of a three-game Interleague series. With 45,026 fans of both teams peppering the stands for the 17th sellout of the season, Philadelphia's offense fired the opening salvo, storming to an 8-2 win over Boston. Ryan Howard played a huge part, pounding two home runs and legging out a triple -- yes, a triple -- and Jimmy Rollins began the game with a home run and drove in three. Then there was calm, collected Cole Hamels, who paid no attention to the pregame hype or the talk of a World Series preview. The lefty dazzled for seven-plus innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. Continuing the indulgence, Philadelphia's possible World Series Game 1 starter baffled a Boston team that entered Monday with the second most runs scored in the American League, behind Texas. Using his impressive repertoire and understanding that Bartolo Colon batting might become an asset, Hamels lasted seven-plus innings. Hamels lapsed briefly in the fifth, when Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew -- who remains near the top of Philadelphia's least favorite players -- smacked back-to-back home runs. That brought a mound conference and a reminder from pitching coach Rich Dubee. "I told him to get off my mound," Hamels said, with a laugh. "He told me, 'Go after them. Don't get too angry with giving up two home runs, and don't rush.'" The Phillies, winners of 15 of their past 20 games, struck for three runs off Colon in the first. Rollins homered on the right-hander's second pitch and Victorino followed with a double. After Chase Utley struck out, Howard hit the first of his two homers. This one landed just out of the reach of Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez. After Boston's back-to-back homers, Rollins keyed a four-run sixth with a two-run single. The Phillies coasted from there, allowing the crowd to again fantasize. And the players. "Everybody tried to bring their 'A' game, because they are the defending World Series champions," Howard said. "I think everybody gets up for playing a team like that." With the crowd stirring from the first pitch -- a ball to Jacoby Ellsbury -- the Phillies started fast and never stopped. Victorino and Hamels allowed for October thoughts to creep in their heads. "Of course," Hamels said. "That's our main goal, to play in October and especially play Boston. If we make it, we'll probably be playing Boston." "You could see it in the air," Victorino added. "One, Boston's Boston. You know you're going to get that kind of atmosphere, and you know the fans are going to be there. You know what to expect going into the game. They're in first place. We're in first place. Let's see how we match up. You savor tonight's moment." Carlos Ruiz and Pedro Feliz weren't immune to the thoughts. As they sat in the dugout during the game, Feliz mentioned to Ruiz that the Red Sox would be a good team to play in the World Series. Ruiz smiled. "Sure, why not?'" Ruiz said. "We've got a good opportunity. It's a long ways away, but we have to keep going. It was a fun night. This series and this week is big. These are great teams."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.