MIAMI – The next time Cole Hamels steps onto a mound to start a game, he will be facing the Braves in the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park, a division title on the line.
It will mark the culmination of a pitching rotation that was carefully designed to have each of the Phillies’ top three pitchers face Atlanta twice during the final 2 weeks of the season. And, they hope, it will jump-start a 6-week sprint into and through the postseason.
Judging by the way Hamels pitched against the Marlins last night, striking out a season-high 13 in the Phillies’ 2-1 win, Bobby Cox and the Braves should have plenty to mull over before they take the field in Philadelphia Monday.
The performance, combined with the Braves’ 6-0 loss to the Nationals, gave the Phillies a two-game lead in the National League East, their largest lead since May 26, when they were 26-19 and 2 1/2 games ahead of Atlanta.
“I think ever since I’ve started, I’ve been trying to pitch for the division,” said Hamels. “I don’t think I want to put it down to the last 12 games. The only philosophy is every game matters, and you start from the first game of the season. I think that’s kind of the way I’ve been able to go out.”
After a 20-minute rain delay, Hamels mowed through the Marlins’ lineup, allowing one run on five hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings while improving to 11-10 and lowering his ERA to 3.01.