Well, that was worth the wait, in more ways than one.
After a delay that lasted a little bit more than an hour, the Phillies brought the rain down in buckets – in the form of runs. They exploded with five home runs, as they crushed Chris Volstad and the Florida Marlins 9-1 Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park in game 1 of a truncated 4-game series.
Cole Hamels, Cy Young candidate Cole Hamels, that is, was stellar in his own right. Hamels (now 9-2 a top the NL in wins with Roy Halladay) dazzled through 7 innings, striking out 6 and only allowing 1 run off 3 hits. He only walked one.
After giving up two first inning singles that led to the Florida’s only run, Hamels retired 17 in a row. That ended with an error by Ryan Howard. However, it was Howard’s first error of the year, a tremendous fact for a player once maligned for his defensive play. Still, King Cole still held the Marlins at bay.
Though, as much as this game was about Hamels’ dominance, it was about the continued awakening of the Phillies’ bats.
The top of the order was spectacular. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, the renewed Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard were a combined 8-15 at the plate with 3 walks.
Rollins, Utley, and Howard all hit two run homers. Howard’s came in the bottom of the first, giving the Phillies a lead they would never relinquish. What was most impressive about the homer, was that he drove the ball to opposite field in left, something that has been missing from his otherwise normally monstrous power numbers.
The youngster, Domonic Brown, was equally impressive. He had two of the Phillies five homers. One in the bottom of the fourth and added a second deck bomb in the bottom of the 7th to make it a 8 run Florida deficit.
The Phillies (41-26) seemingly have turned the corner offensively. Though, they have put up runs against the wretched Chicago Cubs and now against Volstad who was record of 2-7 with an ERA of over 6.
But their true test will come later this month, when they visit the Cardinals for 3 and when they host the red-hot Boston Red Sox to close out the month.
Yet, if this is the turnaround, the Phillies will become an unstoppable force. They have the best rotation in baseball. That is, if healthy, as Cole Hamels left his gem of a performance in the 8th with what is believed to be back spasms.
Health may be the only thing that stop what could be a juggernaut, if, and only if, the offense is for real.