Somewhat lost in the roughly month-long meltdown that has threatened to wreck the Phillies' season has been Cole Hamels rediscovering the form that made him a Philadelphia hero two Octobers back. Hamels has thrown quality starts in five of his last six outings, the exception being that miserable game against the Braves when he allowed a three-run homer in a downpour, then didn't come back after an hour-plus rain delay. He was at his best again today against a Red Sox team that had absolutely pummeled teammates Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton through the first two games of the series, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings while striking out eight.
Hamels made one early mistake, a poorly located cutter on an 0-2 count to Adrian Beltre leading off the second inning that the third baseman hit over the Green Monster to give Boston a 1-0 lead. Otherwise, he was marvelous, popping the radar gun at 95 and 96 deep into the game and spotting his change and curve effectively. Hamels survived late trouble in fine style; after Dustin Pedroia led off the bottom of the sixth with a ball down the right field line that clanked off the glove of Jayson Werth (it was scored a double) and Victor Martinez worked a walk after an epic 15-pitch battle, Hamels recovered to strike out Beltre, induce a fielder's choice from David Ortiz on a fine play by Chase Utley, and get a flyout from Mike Lowell. An inning later, already over 100 pitches, he walked J.D. Drew to lead things off but popped up Darnell McDonald and got a 5-4-3 double play from Daniel Nava.
Hamels did all this with a 4-1 lead, thanks to that rarest of occurrences: a crooked number put up by the Phillies lineup. Tim Wakefield, who stymied the Phils at Citizens Bank Park last month, looked on pace to do the same today after escaping a bases-loaded, no out first inning jam on a shallow flyout from Ryan Howard and a Werth double play. But Howard doubled with one out in the fourth, and Werth drove him in with a single. Raul Ibanez followed with a two-run homer, Ben Francisco doubled, and Juan Castro singled him in to plate the fourth run. Wakefield did retire the next 11 hitters and worked into the eighth, but the damage was done.
After Jose Contreras escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam with another double play to end the eighth, Werth created an insurance run on a walk, two steals and a Francisco sacrifice fly. It turned out to be important, as Ortiz greeted J.C. Romero with a leadoff double in the home ninth, got to third on a Lowell flyout and scored on a passed ball. Romero then walked Drew, prompting Charlie Manuel to wave in Brad Lidge. The comebacking closer struck out McDonald, but surrendered a run-scoring single to Nava that made it 5-3 before popping up Marco Scutaro to end it.
Following tomorrow's off-day, the Phils head to New York for a three-game World Series rematch with the Yankees. Roy Halladay takes on CC Sabathia in Tuesday's opener.