The Philadelphia Phillies were likely geared up for a low scoring pitcher's duel on Aug. 23. Since Phillies fans like myself regard Cole Hamels as the biggest draw left this year, expectations were high when he got to duel Cincinnati Reds' Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto. However, the game was just over halfway done by the time both pitchers were gone, leaving Philadelphia to salvage an extra-inning win and a series split without their ace.
The 4-3 11-inning victory capped off a Phillies comeback that spared Hamels a loss. But although he struggled to get through six innings and fell behind by 3-0, Cueto had to live on the edge all night too. He was lucky to get a 3-0 lead since Philadelphia kept pushing his pitch count up - yet this was one of those games where the Phillies kept leaving men on.
Nevertheless, by the time Philadelphia finally broke through with two runs in the sixth, Cueto had thrown 111 pitches through five-plus innings. Getting him out early was a win in of itself, yet the Phillies were still down by 3-2 and Hamels was gone after the sixth as well. If the Phillies couldn't tie it up soon, they would face being shut down in the ninth by Aroldis Chapman for the third night in a row.
Yet Philadelphia came through just in time in the eighth with small ball, as three singles loaded the bases and a Jimmy Rollins sacrifice fly evened the score. However, the Phillies couldn't take the lead and then wasted two more golden chances in the ninth and 10'th to win it. After leaving men in scoring position all night, it seemed that things were tailor made for the Reds to steal the victory.
But the 11'th was finally the breakthrough inning, as the Phillies loaded the bases again with no one out. Although they had to endure one more out first, they ultimately sent the Reds packing when John Mayberry Jr. singled Chase Utley home - five innings after Hamels and Cueto left.
Although the Phillies and Reds were evenly matched in this split four-game series, they aren't even in much of anything else this year. The only way they are equal is that they each have at least one shutdown ace, yet Hamels and Cueto were equally mediocre instead of equally brilliant in this would-be duel.
Still, this seems to be the way when Hamels faces another ace this season, as when he faced R.A. Dickey on July 5. At least the Phillies pulled out this win without Hamels' best stuff and without facing Cueto's - although Cueto remains on track for the Cy Young and October honors that Hamels has no room to get in 2012.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
Other stories from this contributor
- Sports & Recreation
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Cole Hamels
- Johnny Cueto
- Cincinnati Reds