Utley, Phils drub Nats, but lose Hamels
Ace sprains left ankle, expects to make next start Monday
PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels is not a believer in curses, jinxes or voodoo dolls.
"I'd probably be on the disabled list with a surgery procedure if somebody hated me that bad," Hamels said after the Phillies' 7-1 victory Tuesday over the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. "Why would they toy around with me?"
Why can't Hamels catch a break then? The Phillies extended their winning streak to five games behind a pair of home runs from Chase Utley, a three-run home run from Pedro Feliz, a solo homer from Raul Ibanez and a yeoman's effort from right-hander Chad Durbin, but the mildly sprained left ankle Hamels suffered in the fifth inning overshadowed everything.
Hamels said he does not plan to miss his next start Monday in St. Louis, but that certainly is no guarantee.
"Of course you panic," center fielder Shane Victorino said. "He's our ... No. 1."
Hamels, who started the night 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA after three starts, appeared to rediscover his mojo through 4 1/3 scoreless innings against the Nationals. He had allowed just four hits and two walks. He had struck out four. His fastball consistently hit in the 90-92-mph range.
He looked like a World Series MVP again.
But after Nationals shortstop Alberto Gonzalez singled to center field with one out in the fifth, Nationals pitcher John Lannan bunted to move Gonzalez to second. The ball came back to the pitcher's mound. Hamels moved to the ball, but as he dropped his body to pick it up, he rolled his ankle.
Hamels tossed the ball into the air as he rolled over, but immediately grabbed the ankle. He then pounded the turf before he got up and slowly returned to the mound.
"It was disappointment, because I knew I still had a lot left in the tank," Hamels said.
Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan immediately ran to the mound to check on him. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel followed a few moments later.
"It didn't look that good, to be honest with you," Utley said.
Hamels threw one pitch to catcher Chris Coste to test it.
It didn't go well.
Coste threw the ball back to Hamels, who tossed the ball in the air and immediately walked to the dugout.
Hamels said he felt some frustration when it happened, and whether he meant it or not, he said he grasped a comical aspect to it.
Injuries and setbacks have been his story in 2009.
He missed time in March because of inflammation in his left elbow, which caused him to miss his start Opening Night on April 5. Hamels debuted April 10 in Colorado, where he allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 3 2/3 innings. He gave up five runs and three home runs in six innings April 17 against San Diego.
He made strides during his start Thursday against Milwaukee, but he left the game in the fourth inning after Prince Fielder hit him in the left shoulder with a line drive.
Then the ankle Tuesday.
"This time I felt like I was finally getting in a good groove again," Hamels said. "I don't know what else to do but laugh about it, because it's not serious. I know I'll be able to come back out."
Hamels said he is confident he will be able to pitch Monday in St. Louis for a few reasons: First, because of a day off Thursday, he has an extra day to rest. Second, the tests he took in the trainer's room indicated to him that the ankle is not as severely injured as it could have been. Also, X-rays were negative.
"It didn't really seem to hurt much," Hamels said. "That's huge, especially in spots where it would be a serious injury. It really didn't swell up that much. That's the key to hopefully recovering a lot quicker and going out there and doing what I can do."
The Phillies are waiting for that moment to come.
"Luck is going to turn, and when it does there are a bunch of teams that aren't going to be really happy having to face him," said Durbin, who allowed one hit and one run in 3 2/3 innings. "In both of his last two outings, his stuff was electric. It's a scenario where both times he had to come out of the game, but his stuff is plenty good right now. It's just a matter of time."
Hamels seems to believe that, too, despite everything that has happened to him the last two months.
"Disgusted?" Hamels said. "Hey, we won."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.