PHILADELPHIA -- Tony Gwynn Jr., pinch-hitting for Cole Hamels after eight pristine innings of shutout baseball, issued a most fitting tribute Wednesday. San Diego righthander Joaquin Benoit, just inserted into the game, fired a 95-mph fastball. Gwynn attacked it.
The ball sailed into foul territory. It landed in Padres third baseman Chase Headley's glove for a quick out. Hamels had nothing to show for an 11-strikeout effort on a night when both teams tried their hardest to lose.
Someone had to win, and when Reid Brignac destroyed a Nick Vincent cutter, the Phillies could boast a winning streak for the first time in three weeks. Brignac bashed a three-run homer in the ninth for a 3-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park.
"Cole pitched outstanding and kept us in the game all night," Brignac said. "He's the true winner in this game."
"To pull it out was huge," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said, "because of the way Cole pitched."
The Phillies had not won consecutive games since a three-game streak from May 17-20. They clinched a series victory for the second time in seven tries. Hamels, who has a 162/3-inning scoreless streak, was rendered a no-decision despite a pile of zeros.
Few Phillies have prospered in this charmless season. Hamels, who missed the first 20 games with biceps tendinitis, counts as one. By dominating the wasteland that is San Diego's lineup, he lowered his ERA to 3.07.
His last seven starts have yielded a 1.78 ERA with 56 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 502/3 innings.
"I felt I've been able to really execute more from start to finish," Hamels said, "especially when I get behind."
That is a welcome sign for a team that does not often support Hamels. The Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in six of his 10 starts this season. They matched zeros with San Diego, which ranks last in every major offensive category.
Neither team generated much excitement for the first eight innings. The ninth-inning rally developed when Domonic Brown walked and Carlos Ruiz was plunked on the hand by a Vincent pitch. Brignac crushed his first homer of the season and the 12th of his seven-year career.
Hamels has embraced the heavy workload. He asked to start Wednesday to remain on his regular fifth day. No game Monday would have allowed Hamels to receive an extra day's rest had he stayed in turn. Instead, the Phillies flipped him with Kyle Kendrick, who will start Thursday's series finale.
"I have been feeling comfortable and confident with the workout programs I have," Hamels said. "I have everything pretty wired in, so I want to stick to that and not change things. I don't want an extra day now, because there's no need. I'm happy that when I lobbied for it they gave it to me. I'm going to stick to the five days and run as long as I can with it."
The lefthander has thrown 115 pitches or more in three straight starts, something he has never done before. Hamels' previous two outings before Wednesday were each 125 pitches. He showed no signs of wear; his fastball reached 93 mph in the eighth inning.
"He likes to be around that number," Sandberg said. "He likes to be around 120, 125. That's the quality that he is. He gives us quality starts. He's out there and primarily the last three or four starts, it's been his game. He deserves that chance to pitch. He feels real strong."
The Padres threatened in the middle innings. Hamels, who has a lifetime 2.21 ERA against his hometown team, never broke.
"I want them to know I will give them something they can play behind," Hamels said.
The $144 million lefthander achieved that status long ago.
"I love playing behind him," Brignac said, and his powerful swing finally allowed a clubhouse to celebrate on consecutive nights.
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