The Phillies began a stretch of 33 games in 31 days today in Cincinnati against the Reds. With the schedule shuffling due to Hurricane Irene, the Phils lost their final off-day of the regular season and also have two doubleheaders in September.
Today was an especially important day for pitcher Cole Hamels. It was his first start since coming off the DL with some shoulder soreness. Hamels did not skip a beat as he began quickly mowing down Reds hitters.
Hamels was perfect through three innings when an outfield blunder ended the streak in the fourth. Hunter Pence overran a routine fly ball, then slipped and fell trying to go back to make the catch. The hit was recorded as a triple, which gave the Reds a 1-0 lead soon after.
Probably mortified my the mistake, Pence looked for redemption early with a single to start the fifth. Carlos Ruiz then singled and Wilson Valdez drove Pence home with a very timely double.
Hamels was able to shake off the earlier mistake and with a 1-1 tie game, he continued pitching very well. Through six innings, Hamels allowed just the one run on two hits and struck out seven.
The pitchers battle continued as the Reds’ Homer Bailey kept confusing Phillies hitters. Valdez seemed to be the only one able to hit Bailey and he started the eighth off with a single.
Michael Martinez was then sent up to bunt, which was a minor disaster. I sincerely hope this is the last time Martinez will be counted on to lay down a bunt, because he looked like he had no clue what he was doing. He bunted two balls straight up into the air; the first was foul and the second was caught for a very ugly out.
Lucky for Martinez, Shane Victorino stepped up to the plate and finally saw a pitch he liked. One hanging curve ball later and Victorino had himself a 2-run homer. The Phillies then had a 3-1 lead.
That lead dwindled a little in the bottom half of the inning as the struggles of Michael Stutes continued. He gave up one run on three hits, cutting the lead to 3-2.
In that inning, Placido Polanco missed a hard hit ball and made a throwing error. Polanco also struck out three times at the plate, which is very out of character for him. Normally a contact hitter, Polanco did not look like himself today both at the plate and in the field. This leave one wondering just how badly he is being bothered by the sore hip and back.
After that odd inning, the Phillies were unable to score again. That meant the game was in the hands of Ryan Madson with a miniscule 1-run lead. Coming into this game, Madson was 23 for 25 in save opportunities.
Unlike Polanco tonight, Madson was on top of his game. After allowing a lead-off single, he buckled down and recorded the final three outs of the game.
Tuesday night, Roy Halladay will finally take the mound after getting pushed back with all the crazy weather and game cancellations earlier this week. Game time is 7:10pm.
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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography