For just one night, the Philadelphia Phillies looked like the team of old to give Charlie Manuel what he needed for his 1,000th win.
Cole Hamels took the mound against the Atlanta Braves in a game that offered the Phillies little more than a chance to spoil Atlanta’s bid for best record in baseball. Not much was expected from the Phillies, who had lost their last 11 straight road games and who had won just four of their last 21 games since the All-Star break. Atlanta, meanwhile, had been winners of 14 in a row before dropping a game against the Miami Marlins.
Hamels’ numbers didn’t help the Phillies’ case either. Entering the game, the 29-year-old southpaw had a paltry 4-13 record and a 3.81 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP, both of which were highs for Hamels since the 2009 season. He also carried a 4.29 ERA Turner Field over seven starts from 2010 to 2012. In his one start there this season, he gave up five earned runs in five innings.
But numbers don’t win baseball games — performances do. And after just a few innings, it was obvious that Hamels had his best stuff. He cruised through the first two innings, striking out three and allowing just one hit before deciding to provide a little offense of his own to start out the third, blasting a ball to the deepest part of Turner Field for just his seventh hit of the season and his second career triple.
Hamels supplied his own run support as he scored on a Jimmy Rollins single. The Phillies wouldn’t get another runner on base until the sixth inning, but in the meantime, Hamels continued to deal. When the Phillies did plate another runner (three of them courtesy of Cody Asche‘s second career home run), the lefty was staked to a 4-0 lead and looking like the vintage pitcher this team rode to a World Series in 2008.
And he wasn’t perfect. Four of the six hits he surrendered were doubles, but Hamels did what he hasn’t this season and kept the damage to a minimum. He worked out of trouble a few times and didn’t allow his first and only runner to score until the ninth. He finished the game with 123 pitches, 85 strikes, one walk and nine strikeouts. It was his first complete game since almost exactly a year ago: August 13, 2012.
Hamels has been playing better since the All-Star break, but his record hasn’t supported it. Over the course of the season, the Phillies have only scored 76 runs in his 24 starts, which is just over three runs a game. Hamels has felt the pressure to be perfect, and it has shown in his performances on the mound. But tonight, he seemed poised and relaxed and pitched like the Hamels of old.
Had he not pitched that way, Manuel likely would have had to wait yet another day to finally get his 1,000th win, making him just the 59th manager to accomplish the feat. He has managed for 12 years between two different teams and a total of 1,824 games with a .548 winning percentage. With five NL East titles, two NL pennants and a World Series title, Manuel is the most successful manager in Phillies history.
It was only fitting then that he would win his landmark 1,000th game with Hamels, who debuted in Manuel’s second year with the Phillies. With Asche’s home run plating Chase Utley, it was also fitting that one of the kids who grew up under Manuel’s leadership would score one of the game’s runs.
Overall, the Phillies gave their fans and their manager a night to remember. Even if it is the only positive to take from the 2013 season, so be it; because for just one night, the Phillies once again got to be the team of destiny.