Hamels leads Phillies to second straight victory

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DENVER - Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels is facing an uncertain future.
His struggling team might trade him by the July 31 deadline. Or by then, they might re-sign Hamels to a lucrative contract to keep him from becoming a free agent. Then again, Hamels might leave as a free agent after the season, once he sizes up his market.
With business matters swirling about him, Hamels took the mound Sunday at Coors Field and stifled the Rockies for eight innings, helping the Phillies win the rubber game of their series 5-1.
Hunter Pence hit a three-run homer for the Phillies in the fifth off Rockies left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who gave up five runs in five innings.
After giving up six hits and one run with one walk and seven strikeouts, Hamels, who is 11-4 with a 3.07 ERA, was asked how he's able to maintain his focus and deliver a performance like he did in the face of so much uncertainty.
"Just because I'm not thinking about it," Hamels said. "It's one of those types of situations where I guess it's never enough; everybody's going to keep asking about it. So I just have to go out and do my own business and make pitches and pitch in ballgames every five days. I think that's all I can be accountable for."
The Phillies, who are 39-51 and 15 games behind in the National League East, are reportedly trying hard to re-sign Hamels before the July 31 trading deadline. But it's not as though Hamels is in regular contact with his agent John Boggs to get updates on any negotiations. That's not something he cares to do.
"I get to play baseball," Hamels said. "I get to control my own destiny. So that's the least of my worries. I know if I stay healthy, I'm able to pitch, I'll be able to do well and I'll be able to do it for a really long time, and everything else will kind of eventually fall into place."
Ultimately, everything fell into place Sunday for Hamels. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Hamels "was a little slow getting started" and had trouble breathing. If the mile-high altitude affected Hamels early in the game, he wouldn't say.
Regardless, he worked out of trouble of his own making in the first. After Dexter Fowler led off with a single, Hamels fielded Marco Scutaro's bunt but threw wide of first base. Hamels then struck out Carlos Gonzalez and Ramon Hernandez -- they missed badly swinging at changeups -- and got Michael Cuddyer to ground out.
"You're trying to take one pitch at a time and make the best pitch you can and hope you get the groundouts or the strikeouts," said Hamels, who threw 111 pitches, 71 strikes and worked at least seven innings for the fourth straight start. "You don't want the errors to affect anything that's going on there."
Hamels gave up a leadoff single in the second but retired the next three batters. He gave up a leadoff single to Fowler in the third but picked him off. He yielded a leadoff single in the fifth but got Josh Rutledge, the next batter, to ground into a double play.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of Hamels, "From the second inning on, he was terrific, had a great cutter. His changeup was fantastic. He pitched with his fastball to both sides of the plate, and then every once in a while dropped a breaking ball just to remind you."
The Rockies broke through in the sixth when Scutaro walked with one out and scored on a triple by Gonzalez. But Hamels struck out cleanup hitter Hernandez and got Cuddyer to ground out.
"You give up the triple with one out, those guys are kind of almost destined to score," Hamels said. "It's more about making a good pitch. Pretty much I was conceding the run anyway, just trying to get the ground out, just trying to get guys out. But at the same time, I got the strike out and eventually got the ground out."
Pomeranz gave up a run in the first when Shane Victorino tripled with one out. Moved up to the second spot in the lineup for this series, Victorino went 3-for-8 in the final two games with two triples and a double and four runs scored. Pomeranz struck out Pence but gave up a run-scoring single to Carlos Ruiz.
A leadoff double by Ruiz in the fourth produced a run as he moved to third on a ground out and scored on Placido Polanco's sacrifice fly.
Pomeranz, who retired seven straight batters before Ruiz's double, struck out the first two batters in the fifth before finding trouble.
Jimmy Rollins singled and took second on Pomeranz's wide pick-off throw. Pomeranz walked Victorino to bring up Pence. He came to bat 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in the series and hitting .222 (24-for-108) with runners in scoring position. Pence fell into an 0-2 hole but drove Pomeranz's 2-2 curveball into the left field stands for his 17h home run.
"I had two strikes, just trying to battle," Pence said. "Since the (All-Star) break, I hadn't had a hit. Hit some balls hard right at people, but they had been getting the best of me. Just trying to see the ball and hit the ball and found a way to find the barrel."
Pomeranz said, "If I could go back again, I probably would have thrown something different. My pitch location wasn't as good as it was the last two times."
The Phillies broke an eight-game losing streak on Sundays, winning for just the fourth time in 16 Sunday games. They also broke a string of five straight series losses, having last won a series June 19-21 when they took two of three from the Rockies in Philadelphia.
The Rockies fell to 3-12 on Sunday -- 9-31 since the beginning of the 2011 season -- and saw their record in rubber games slip to 5-10.
The Phillies left here for Los Angeles, savoring consecutive victories for the first time since June 25-26. They came back to win the series after losing 6-2 on Friday.
"It was big for us to come back after the break and take this series," Manuel said. "I don't know if you call two games a winning streak. We do. Three would look better. Three would be kind of official."
Losing this series would have been a disastrous way for the Phillies to start the second half. They've got a long road to travel to get back into contention. But at least they left here upbeat.
"I always got a glimmer of hope," Manuel said. "I'm a positive guy. In this game and the job I have, you better be positive. Just get a little ticked off at times."
NOTES -- The Phillies plan to activate pitcher Roy Halladay on Tuesday to start at Los Angeles, according to a team official. He threw a 30-pitch bullpen Saturday, two days after working three innings for high Class A Clearwater on a rehab assignment. Halladay has been on the disabled list since May 28 with a strained right lat muscle...With his run-scoring single in the first, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz raised his average to .470 (31-for-66) in the first and second innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the highest average in the majors in the first and second for players with a minimum of 40 at-bats in those innings...Jhoulys Chacin, who last pitched for the Rockies on May 1 and has been out with a nerve irritation in a pectoral muscle, will throw a two-inning, 30-pitch simulated game Tuesday. He's expected to throw about 65 pitches total, counting his work in the bullpen before the simulated game...Rockies reliever Mike Ekstrom, who was brought up Friday from Triple-A Colorado Springs, pitched one scoreless inning for the second straight game...Left-handed hitters Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were not in the Phillies lineup against left-hander Pomeranz. Both Utley and Howard missed considerable time with injuries to start the season, and entering Sunday, Utley is 4-for-14 with one RBI and two strikeouts and Howard is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against left-handers. Howard pinch hit in the eighth against right-hander Rafael Betancourt and hit a hard grounder that turned into an inning-ending double play that went from first base to shortstop to first base.

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