Monday, April 11, 2011

Cole Hamels Bounces Back & Phillies Series Preview with the Nationals

This weekend was a great weekend for Phillies baseball.  I prefer night games as a dad though because my 5 ½ month old son goes to bed at 7:00 every night so the 7:05 start tends to work the best.  He's at a stage where he doesn’t want his bouncy seat, swing or play mat, he just wants to be held…constantly.  The good part about this was he was able to watch a lot of the game with his Grandpop on Saturday and most of the game with me on Sunday.  He may be the Phillies good luck charm; at least in my eyes.  Watching the game with him resulted in two victories and more importantly the return to form of Cole Hamels. 

Following the Phillies routing of Atlanta with a 10-2 victory on Saturday, Cole Hamels got his second start of the young season on Sunday with a chance to take the series.  In Hamels first outing at home he was booed off the mound after giving up 6 runs in 2.2 innings.  As a pro athlete Hamels knows what it takes to get to the level he is at and he knows there's going to be good days and bad days so don’t take the boos personally.  That being said, he is human and I'm sure he welcomed this start on the road. 

The Braves couldn't figure out Hamels all day.  They were only able to get a hit off of him 4 times.  Hamels went seven innings striking out 8 and only walking 1.  It was like night and day from his first start to this one.  In his first start at home against the Mets Hamels threw first pitch strikes to 44% of the batters he faced, yesterday that average rose to 54%, this was a clear result of him being able to locate his fastball which made his circle change the deadly pitch it should be.  At times he even mixed in a curveball or two causing the Atlanta lineup to never feel comfortable.   

Hamels outing on Sunday and the 3-0 Phillies was a summary of his entire 2010 season.  Hamels started 33 games last year and out of those the Phillies scored 3 or fewer runs in 18 of them.  He had the 5th worst run support in baseball with the Phillies offense averaging 3.54 runs a game for him.  He finished 12-11 last season but that easily could have been 18-20 wins.  The Phillies were shut out 4 times when Hamels started with losses of 2-0, 1-0, 1-0 and 3-0 in those shout out losses Hamels pitched 29.10 innings with 30ks and only 3 walks.  He only went fewer then 5 innings in 3 starts last season and for some reason some Phillies fans still doubt him.  Sundays win by the Phil’s on the back of a great performance by Hamels gave the Phillies the series 2-1 and brought their record to 7-2 going into a three game set against Washington. 

Lets hope Joe “Heavy B’ Blanton can catch whatever Cole Hamels caught going into his second start of the season on Tuesday.  Some would say the Phillies should skip Blanton all together, but when you pay a guy 8.5 million dollars he should have to earn his money.  Blanton is what he is; Hamels first start was more of a hiccup then Blanton’s.  Blanton will give you 8-12 wins a season with a 4 + era, he has had impressive starts in the past and seemed to be cruising in his first one this season before melting down like Rory Mcllroy at a Masters tournament.  He did strike out 6 and only walked 2 in 4.1 innings of work; the problem was the 10 hits he allowed.  Blanton should get himself back in order and with Halladay and Lee to follow the Phillies could get their second sweep of the early season. 

This series against Washington will be the first that Jason Werth will get to play against his old team.  He may have money that he can't even count, but I am willing to bet that he wishes he was still with the Phillies.  He was a great player here and when he comes to town he should be cheered, but to this point it seems as though the Phillies really don’t miss his bat in the lineup.  Going into this series Werth is his hitting .200 with 1 home run and 1 RBI, while his replacement in Philadelphia, Ben Francisco is hitting .306 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI’s.  At only $1.175 million compared to $10.571 million, I would say the Phillies are getting the better bargain through the first 9 games and I don’t expect this to change. 

The good news for me is that all of the games are 7:05 starts this week.  The bad news is if my son is the good luck charm, I can’t keep him awake to watch the games.  I really don’t think the Phillies need much luck this season, not with the talent they have.  There is no replacement for great starting pitching and the Phillies have the best in the business.  I expect a 3-0 sweep of the Nationals but I will be conservative here and will say the Phillies will take the series 2-1.

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