It took a nearly perfect performance by Cole Hamels to bring the Phillies back to average but they have finally made it to sea level seven weeks into the campaign. Wipe the slate clean, boys, and let's start the season from here.
Hamels set the tone for the evening right out of the chute, striking out the first four batters he faced. On the evening he struck out eleven in his eight innings of work, notably most of them swinging. When a pitcher is fooling that many big league batters, especially the lineup Milwaukee puts out there these days, he has something working. Charlie Manuel and his opposite number, Ned Yost, agreed. Yost called Hamels' performance one of the best one is likely to see all season.
Aaron Rowand continued to hit in the clutch, too, striking the big blow, a three run homer. Hamels only mistake of the evening came when he surrendered a two-run shot to J.J. Hardy, the first hit of the game from the Brew Crew. Hardy, a shortstop who has never hit more than nine homers in a season during his three years in the majors, has now stroked a MLB-leading thirteen already this year, so it's a little difficult to call that pitch by Hamels a mistake under the circumstances. It seems everyone is making mistakes when Hardy is at the plate.
One of my favorite moments of the game came in the sixth inning when Carlos Ruiz, the hero the night before, dived for a foul popup in the sixth inning trying to preserve Hamels' perfect game to that point. The ball glanced off the heel of Ruiz' glove but he got kudos for the supreme effort. After Brett Myers closed the game in the ninth with a strikeout, he patted Ruiz on the top of the mask/helmet twice in obvious glee and affection. The pitching staff loves this "kid".
Milwaukee came to town one of the hottest clubs in all of baseball, sporting the best record in the NL. The Phils can sweep them with a win this afternoon and more significantly, rise above .500 for the first time this year.