With one out in the top of the eighth inning, Cole Hamels, who had been pitching well, gave up back-to-back singles before walking Bryce Harper after a 3-2 count to load the bases. Hamels’ pitch count was approaching 100 and Antonio Bastardo was warming up in the bullpen.
Then it happened. Charlie Manuel trotted out from the dugout with what seemed to be the hook. Fans seemed unsure of what they wanted. On one hand, Hamels seemed to be struggling but on the other, it wasn’t as if anyone in the bullpen would have been trusted to do any better and work out of the jam.
And based off of Hamels’ numbers this season, it made sense that Manuel would be wary of leaving him in. To put it bluntly, the 29-year-old ace has really been knocked around this season, especially in late innings and when his pitch count tops 60. So with a huge game and huge series hanging in the balance, it made sense that Manuel would grapple with this decision.
But after talking to his ace in one of those conversations that really makes you want to be the proverbial “fly on the wall,” Manuel ultimately left the mound without a baseball in his hands.
Fans, some of whom are likely calling for Manuel’s firing, cheered as the manager left his ace in to finish the inning. And with the confidence of his manager, Hamels did not disappoint. He struck out Ryan Zimmerman and then got Jayson Werth to pop out, finishing the inning without allowing a run to score.
It was just the third time this season that Hamels pitched eight innings and his one earned run on six hits over that span made this his best start of the season.
Of course, had Hamels given up a double to Werth or a home run to give the Nationals the lead, Manuel would have been criticized for leaving his starter in for too long. As it worked out however, Hamels got out of his jam and the Phillies were able to draw it up just as they had planned.
Bastardo came in the ninth to close out the game and Hamels got just his fourth win of the season, but his second in a row. For Hamels, it has been a nice streak to start the month of July with. So far in the month, Hamels has pitched extremely well, giving up just 11 hits and two earned runs over 15 innings.
And with the confidence that his teammates and his manager, a better second half is undoubtedly in the cards.