Poor Cole Hamels. Every fifth day for him has to feel like a bad kid running down the stairs on Christmas morning only to find coal in his stocking. You really have to wonder if the rest of the team likes him or not these days. After all, before scoring a run in the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies haven’t scored a run while Cole has been on the mound since August 1st against the Nationals.
Cole pitched seven strong innings tonight against the Houston Astros, with his only blemish coming in the top of the 4th inning. After Astros’ right fielder Hunter Pence singled with one out, first baseman Carlos Lee blasted a two-run home run to deep left field, which were the only runs Cole would allow in his outing. Despite that mistake, Hamels only allowed five hits, while striking out eight and walking one.
The Phillies offense struggled against Astros’ starter Bud Norris, who scattered five hits over six innings of work. The Phils were able to score in the bottom of the sixth after Jayson Werth singled and Raul Ibanez doubled him home. It would be the only highlight of the game for the Phillies batters until the bottom of the ninth.
After two quick outs registered by Astros’ reliever Wilton Lopez, Jimmy Rollins pulled a 3-1 pitch deep over the fence in right field to tie the game at 2-2 to send the game into extra innings. For fans with day jobs, if they knew what was to come of this game, they may have wished the game had ended with Jimmy making the last out of the inning and taking a loss. Little did they know at the time, they were in for one wild night.
The game ball, for both sides, goes teams respective bullpens. After Hamels left the game after seven innings, the Phillies’ bullpen pitched eight straight scoreless innings, while the Astros’ bullpen gave up one run over nine innings.
It looked to be your typical 16 inning, five hour game at the ballpark tonight, until things turned ridiculous in the bottom of the 14th. After Ryan Howard struck out on a controversial check-swing call from the third base umpire Scott Barry, Ryan flipped his bat and threw his helmet. Barry proceeded to toss Howard out of the game, which left the Phillies with no position players left on their bench.
After some debate between manager Charlie Manuel, pitching coach Rich Dubee, and bench coach Davey Lopes, it was decided that pitcher Roy Oswalt would play left field, and Ibanez would move to first base for Howard. Fittingly, the first Astros batter belted a fly ball to left field towards Oswalt, who calmly made the grab for the first out of the inning. To add even more drama to the madness, Astros’ center fielder Michael Bourn attempted a bunt down the first base line towards Ibanez, who made the scoop and beat Bourn by diving to the bag with his glove outstretched.
David Herndon allowed two runs in the top of the 16th to give the Astros a 4-2 lead. The Phillies had runners on 1st and 2nd in the bottom of the inning, however, Oswalt grounded to third to end the game.
While its certainly a welcome sight to see Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back in the lineup after two long stints on the disabled list, neither has been playing to form since their returns. In fact, you could say that they’ve been a liability in the top of the order with Jimmy and Placido Polanco swinging the bat well the past couple of weeks. Howard, in particular, is 0-11 in the past two games versus Houston. Eight of his eleven outs have been via a strikeout. That being said, its safe to say Phillies fans are glad they don’t have to see the Wilson Valdez to Greg Dobbs/Mike Sweeney connection any longer.
The Phillies received some help in both the NL East and Wildcard standings tonight thanks to a 5-2 win by the Colorado Rockies over the Atlanta Braves, and a 4-3 win by the Pittsburgh Pirates over the St. Louis Cardinals. They remain 2.5 games behind the Braves in the division, and one game up over the Cardinals in the Wildcard.