The Phillies took home a decisive 7-1 victory of the Chicago Cubs today, with ace starter Cole Hamels once again demonstrating exactly why the praise that is heaped constantly on him is so well-deserved. That, however, might not be the element of the game that has the most lasting impact on the season. Center fielder Shane Victorino was placed on the disabled list after straining his right calf scoring on a wild pitch. This is not what Phillies fans want to hear just as they ready themselves for Jimmy Rollins' return to play. Injuries are unpredictable, of course, but some of us had dared to hope that the 2008 season would not be quite so injury-riddled as the previous two.
Victorino suffered the same injury last year and missed considerable time. It it troubling to think that "The Flyin' Hawaiian" might be particularly susceptible to calf strains, or that repeated tweaking of the muscle might come to damage the speed that might be his greatest asset.
Victorino will probably be replaced in center most regularly by bench player Jayson Werth, who will do a competent job but who puts up numbers which lag far enough behind Victorino's to make his absence felt.
In the game itself, however, the Phillies scored a decisive victory. Hamels never quite looked like a pitcher who was giving a lights out performance, being saved by good defense on a number of well-struck balls (in one case by the temporarily-departing Shane Victorino himself, whose injury in the fifth might never have had a chance to happen had he mistimed his wall-crash in the second), but all that really matters in a pitcher's performance is how well he holds back the opposing offense from scoring. Hamels pitched seven one-hit innings, so by any standards he did an excellent job. After a shaky Spring he now has a 0.82 ERA in three starts. Bravo. If Hamels can stay in the same ballpark for most of his starts this season he will be indispensable.
The statistical majority of the offense was accounted for a pair of two-run homers from the infielders. It's good to see Pedro Feliz displaying the power that along with his steady glove made him such an attractive player for the Phillies' wide-open hot corner position, and it's somehow even nicer to see Ryan Howard, well, do what he does best.
An unforeseen but not insurmountable misfortune was visited upon the Phillies in tonight's game; fortunately, they were able to display in a 7-1 win that they should have the offense, defense, and pitching to win convincingly -- Shane Victorino or no.