Maybe it helps to think about the troubled relationship between Cole Hamels and the Phillies offense as a complicated love story. Obstacles to their being together are constantly coming up: match-ups with opposing aces, for instance, or the fact that the Phillies offense is basically terrible. As a result, for stretches that can feel interminable, they might not see each other at all.
But when they get together, it's magical--perhaps especially so with time presumably running out before a likely Hamels trade sometime this summer. Saturday in DC, Hamels won his fourth consecutive start--his longest such streak since earning five straight wins back in May 2012--as the Phillies scored him an almost unfathomable eight runs, the team's season high. The tally also doubled their previous high in support of Hamels, reached twice in his first nine starts.
For his part, the ace turned in his fourth straight outing of at least seven innings with no more than two runs, finishing eight for the first time this year while holding the Nationals to a run on five hits (including three infield singles) and a walk over an economical 104 pitches. Hamels struck out five and lowered his 2015 ERA to 2.98. I believe this would make him the sixth best starter on the Red Sox, according to certain baseball thinkers so profound they can perceive truths elusive to eyes, box scores and other flawed conveyances of information.
On offense, the hero was another holdover from the glory days. Ryan Howard had hits in each of his first three plate appearances: a single, a double, and a 410 foot home run that was his 10th in the team's last 30 games. His OPS for the month is now well over 1.000, and were it not for Bryce Harper on the other side of the field (though he went 0-4 with two strikeouts on Saturday), Howard would be a viable candidate for Player of the Month honors. Maikel Franco added his second big-league homer, a two-run shot in the Phillies' four-run third inning that opened the scoring, and every starter but Chase Utley and Grady Sizemore had at least one hit.
Stephen Strasburg, the erstwhile phenom who'd easily handled the Phillies in two earlier matchups this year but has otherwise struggled in 2015, surrendered those four runs plus two more in the fourth before hitting the showers after just 3 2/3. One of those final runs was unearned, coming after one of Washington's four errors on the afternoon.
Attendance at Nationals Park was 41,722. These days, it's certain most were Nats fans eager to see one of their aces get well against a weak opponent he'd previously owned. But the particulars of this game--a dominant Hamels start, Howard powering the offense--hearkened back to the days when it was southbound Philadelphians swelling the gate in Washington to cheer on their perennial powerhouse. It being unlikely we'll see too many more of these, this was worth enjoying.