My article for the Gloucester County Times:
PHILADELPHIA – It was a night dominated by starting pitching.
Both Cole Hamels and Adam Wainwright bested the opposing offenses, but the Phillies got a walk-off home run from Carlos Ruiz in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1, on Tuesday night.
Hamels lasted eight-plus innings, allowing one run on eight hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts in the no-decision.
“He pitched a heck of a game,” said manager Charlie Manuel. “He had a good down-hill plane and went up when he wanted to. He used all of his pitches. He had a good presence and Wainwright was right there with him.”
Hamels worked his cut-fastball a lot more than usual, showing he has a lot of confidence in his new pitch developed in the offseason. Ruiz felt the cutter was the best he’s seen Hamels throw all year.
“It’s been a pitch I’ve been trying to learn,” Hamels said. “I think when you’re able to test the waters, throw it and get the feel for it through the previous games, over time it became comfortable and I obviously have the confidence that I can throw it. I’m starting to get the feel of how to throw it and where to throw it and trying to make it do what I want it to do.”
His fastball also was topping out at around 95 mph, the best velocity Manuel has felt Hamels has had since 2008.
“His velocity was good,” Manuel said. “There’s a big difference between a 94 to 96 mph fastball and an 87 to 89 fastball with an 82 mph change-up. There’s a difference in separation in movement on the ball, and when his command is on, he’s good.”
The Cardinals were able to chase Hamels in the top of the ninth thanks to back-to-back doubles by David Freese and Yadier Molina with no outs that tied the game. A fan ran onto the field for a second straight night just as the left-hander was about to throw his first pitch of the ninth inning.
Brad Lidge came in and stopped the Cardinals before they could do any more damage, striking out Brendan Ryan with one out and the potential go-ahead run on third.
“For me tonight, it was real big for me to come into that situation and keep that guy from scoring,” said Lidge. “And also throwing back-to-back days was good for me, and I want to keep building on what I’m doing. I definitely feel ready to do what (Manuel) wants me to do and that would be to close out some games.”
The Phillies offense has struggled against the Cardinals’ starting pitching so far this series, but Hamels’ performance was able to get them off the hook on Tuesday.
Raul Ibanez led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple to the gap in right-center field. One out later, Ruiz drove him in with his sacrifice fly to deep right field to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
The Phillies managed only five hits all game. Wainwright pitched eight innings, allowing only one run on four hits, two walks, and striking out six.
Molina had a three-hit game for St. Louis and Freese added two hits and a run.
Ryan Howard led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk against Dennys Reyes. Manager Tony LaRussa then went with the right hander Blake Hawksworth to retire the next three batters.
In the tenth, Albert Pujols got his first hit of the game; a double over the head of left fielder Ben Francisco with one out. But Jose Contreras (1-1) was able to get the next two batters to end the threat.
Ruiz led off the bottom of the 10th with a home run off Hawksworth into the left-field stands a couple pitches after hooking a ball with home-run distance just foul.
“I know as soon as I hit it, it was a foul ball and after that,” said Ruiz. “But (the home run) felt real good, I put a good swing on it.”
Doubles: Ruiz (4). Triples: Ibanez (2). HR: Ruiz (1).
WP: Contreras (2-1). LP: Hawksworth (0-1).