The Philadelphia Phillies have about nine days to sign Cole Hamels to a long term extension. As Phillies fans like myself perform the countdown, we know that his starts before the July 31 trade deadline could be his last for Philadelphia, if he has to be traded. As such, his start on July 21 against the San Francisco Giants was huge, since it might be his last start at Citizens Bank Park for the home team - and it was the definition of a mixed bag.
On one hand, Hamels hit a shocking home run and gutted through a career high 128 pitches through seven-plus innings. On the other, he gave up three home runs - one to pitcher Matt Cain and one that tied the game in the eighth - which helped the Giants last long enough to pull out a 6-5 10 inning win.
On July 5, Hamels was part of a prospective pitching duel with New York Mets ace R.A. Dickey, yet it turned out to be a slugfest. Hamels was in line to win that game anyway, yet Jonathan Papelbon blew it in the ninth inning. This time around, Hamels and Cain's prospective pitching duel turned out to be a wash out - and Papelbon took until the 10'th inning to lose the game for the Phillies.
Cain has killed the Phillies ever since the the 2010 NLCS, although he was a little less dominant this time. Yet aside from Hamels' home run and a three-run bomb that Ryan Howard hit to give Philadelphia a 5-4 lead in the sixth, Cain did keep the Phillies in check. Hamels was the one who gave up many more hits and had to battle an exhausted arm.
But he was still in line to get the win in his potential farewell to Philadelphia - at least until Melky Cabrera got the Giants' third home run to tie the game in the eighth. Yet due to the rotten bullpen - and hopefully not just because this could have been his last game in a Phillies home uniform - Charlie Manuel couldn't let Hamels rest yet. He finally did get taken out after getting into another jam, then when the Phillies got out of it, Papelbon took over for the next two innings.
However, Papelbon continues to fade back a bit from his dominance in the first half, as he ran into trouble in his second inning. It took a bunt single from pinch hitter Gregor Blanco for the Giants to break through, which pretty much doomed the Phillies to a second straight loss at home.
Although San Francisco had threatened for much of the afternoon, Philadelphia only got one base runner after Howard's home run. Despite finally solving Cain to the tune of five runs, it mostly came on a few blasts. As such, a lack of sustained offense may have been the perfect way to honor Hamels' potential farewell in Citizens Bank Park.
If Hamels is to get traded on or before July 31, his last start for the Phillies would be on the road. Therefore, if July 21 was the end of his time in Philadelphia itself, it was the definition of a bittersweet finale, with the Giants putting an emphasis on the bitter at the end.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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