Monday, June 16, 2008

Howard and Hamels Take Down Red Sox

The Red Sox came into tonight's game with confidence, fresh off a 9-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Reds. Meanwhile the Phillies just had a pair of one-run losses to the St. Louis Cardinals. However, any nervousness the Phillies might have felt coming into a series against the reigning champions was quelled by the knowledge that Cole Hamels was pitching.

The Phillies seemed as relaxed as ever and dominated this game from the start. Jimmy Rollins belted a lead-off home run in the bottom of the first, then Ryan Howard followed with a two-run shot, and the Phillies took a 3-0 lead.

Hamels did his part, keeping Boston off the board early, thanks in part to a pair of inning-ending strikeouts from Red Sox starter Bartolo Colon. Howard connected for a second home run off Colon in the third inning, his nineteenth of the year. The Red Sox showed signs of a comeback in the top of the fourth, as Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew hit back-to-back home runs off Hamels, cutting the lead to two runs. But that was all the offense the Red Sox had in them.

The two-run lead would have been enough, but just to be safe, the Phillies broke it open in the sixth inning. Mike Timlin entered the game and the Red Sox fans in attendance probably wished he hadn't. Timlin walked Pedro Feliz on four pitches (a feat in itself), then allowed a Carlos Ruiz single. Hamels then sac bunted to move the runners over, which set up a two RBI single for Rollins. Shane Victorino then singled to right and Chase Utley grounded into a fielder's choice that scored Rollins. Howard nearly hit his third home run of the day, but instead the ball bounced off the wall and as Jacoby Ellsbury and Drew chased it down, Howard lumbered around the bases, sliding head first into third for a triple. Geoff Jenkins grounded out to end the inning, but the score was 8-2 and the game was effectively over.

Hamels pitched his best after allowing the home runs, setting down eight straight Red Sox, before allowing a walk to Drew to start the eighth. With his pitch count at 110, Charlie Manuel brought in Chad Durbin to finish the game. Durbin got Manny Ramirez to hit into a double play and coasted from there, nailing down the Phillies win.

It was not Hamels' most dominant game. Even without the home runs, he gave up five hits and walked a pair, but the Red Sox were unable to get anything going against him. The Phillies, meanwhile, hit Colon hard and Timlin even harder. They had twelve hits, half of which were for extra bases.

That the Phillies won was no surprise. Hamels is the staff ace and Colon is not the same pitcher that won the AL Cy Young in 2005. The biggest shock was a pair of triples coming from the most unlikely sources. Howard and Pat Burrell tripled thanks to strange caroms off the wall and unimpressive fielding by Ramirez and Ellsbury. It was Burrell's first triple since 2006 and Howard's second on the year. It also marked the first time ever that the two of them tripled in the same game.

If those triples had proved essential, one would have to chalk this win up to luck, but Burrell's triple didn't lead to any runs and Howard's scored the eighth run, but the game was already out of reach by that point. So clearly the Phillies were the better team last night. The pitching match-ups will get tougher from here, but in Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick, the Phillies are also well-equipped.

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