MILWAUKEE -- There will come a time in the coming weeks and months when the Phillies will reach an inevitable transition stage. Personnel changes will be made as the Phils try to reverse their losing ways and become a contender again.
No matter what changes are made, it seems likely that Cole Hamels will stick around. Sure, the Phils will listen to offers for the 30-year-old lefty -- and if they’re blown away, well, you never know -- but at this moment it seems more likely that Hamels will be the nucleus that they build around.
Reliever Ken Giles is one of the players the Phils will use to build around Hamels.
So, in some ways, Monday night offered a little glimpse of the future. Hamels pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and the power-armed Giles got four big outs in crunch time to preserve a one-run lead as the Phillies beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-2, at Miller Park (see Instant Replay).
Hamels’ goal is always to pitch a complete game, but he had no qualms handing the ball to the 23-year-old Giles with two outs in the seventh and two men on base.
“He’s very impressive,” Hamels said. “Any time you know he’s coming in the ballgame you can definitely sit back and watch and know that you’re in good hands because he’s got amazing stuff.
“You can kind of tell with his presence out there he really wants to get the job done and he’s confident with what he’s got. He doesn’t have that fear, that uncertainty. He’s good. He’s going to be somebody that’s going to be in the back of that bullpen for a really long time for the Phillies and he’s going to put up some good numbers.”
Giles already has put up good numbers in his month in the majors. In 11 2/3 innings, he has allowed four hits and one run. (That run came in his first inning.) He has registered 17 strikeouts and walked just three.
Monday night’s assignment was Giles’ toughest yet in the majors. Milwaukee’s lineup was stacked with right-handed bats, so manager Ryne Sandberg used Giles in the tight situation instead of lefty Jake Diekman.
The Brewers are an aggressive, fastball-hitting team, so Giles featured his slider early in the eighth inning. He had trouble throwing it for strikes early in the inning and paid for it by falling behind in the count and giving up a double to Ryan Braun to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Eventually, Giles got the handle on his slider and located his fastball well enough to get out of the inning. It also helped that Brewers pinch-runner Logan Schafer made a costly baserunning error in a one-run game.
“In a 3-2 game, it was probably his biggest moment yet, facing the heart of the order in that situation,” Sandberg said of Giles.
Giles remains unfazed by his early success. He does not appear to be a guy who thinks too much and sometimes that can be a good thing.
“That’s what I’ve been prepared to do the whole time I’ve been here,” he said. “All I’ve tried to do is get outs. I don’t try to do too much.
“I don’t think it’s easy. I just prepare for each game. I study the hitters and try to carry out what I’m trying to do.”
The Phillies had entered the game with one win in the previous six games on this trip. They were hitting .170 in those six games. That led an unhappy GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to threaten changes before Monday night’s game (see story).
Amaro’s words may have resonated -- at least for a while -- in the Phillies’ clubhouse because Chase Utley staked the Phillies to a 2-0 lead with a home run in the first inning and Ryan Howard made it a 3-0 lead with an RBI single in the third. It was the first time the Phils led by three runs since June 24, a span of 14 games.
It was just Utley’s second extra-base hit in the last 23 games.
For Howard, it was just his second RBI in the last 18 games.
The Phillies’ offense went into shutdown mode after the third inning, but the pitching was able to make the lead stand up for just the team’s second win in the last 11 games.
Hamels, long a victim of poor run support, was thrilled to get the early two-run homer from Utley.
“OK, I have something to work with,” he said. “But I still have to put up zeroes.
“My job is to go out there, pitch deep into the game, prevent runs and keep the lead. It was good to be able to do that.”