Apparently the Phillies hot streak only had about a half inning left in it as they scored one run in the first inning and then went downcast night 6-1 to the Braves. Damn that off day.
And speaking of off days, Cole Hamels, who just signed the most lucrative contract in Phillies history, picked a bad day to have one. Hamels walked a career-high six batters, throwing more balls (56) than strikes (53) for the first time in his career when he has thrown 100 or more pitches.
Ironically Hamels, who just signed a $144 million deal, was beaten by Ben Sheets who three weeks ago signed a deal of his own, a Minor League contract with the Braves. Sheets, having retired from the game two years ago, was coaching his son’s baseball team. But since his call-up by the Braves Sheets has been outstanding allowing just one run in 18 innings. He is 3-0 since his return to the majors.
So it was not the start the Phillies or Hamels were hoping for as they entered arguably their most important series of the season against the Atlanta Braves. Prevailing wisdom is that the Phillies have to win at least two out of three to maintain even the slimmest hopes of competing for a playoff spot down the stretch.
Perhaps it should have been expected that Hamels might not be at his best after all the hype surrounding his new signing.
Perhaps the pressure and relief got to him.
Or perhaps it was just the humidity that took its toll on the newly minted millionaire. (Hamels had to change his jersey and undershirt twice during the game.)
Well, whatever the reason, now it’s our turn to sweat as the Phillies’ hopes and their season will rest in the hands of…
Big Joe Blanton.
But in a year when the Phillies aces haven’t lived up to that billing, somehow that seems appropriate. (Remember the first press conference with the four aces and Joe two season ago when all the assembled media forgot that Hamels wasn’t the only one with a World Series ring? That in fact Joe Blanton had been a “Big” reason that the Phillies won it all in 2008?)
So perhaps we have come full circle. Blanton, who has had two consecutive strong starts including a win in which he allowed only two runs and six hits in eight innings, will be on the mound tonight for the Phillies in their most important game of the season.
And you know what?
I wouldn’t have it any other way!