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September 16 2006

The good new is that is looks like the Phillies may have finally found the secret formula to beat the Astros.  The bad news is that the secret formula calls for either a grand slam from Pat Burrell or a near no-hitter from Cole Hamels.

What started out as an epic pitcher's duel turned into a lopsided affair when the Phillies bats roared to life in the seventh inning in Houston this afternoon.  After Pat Burrell finally broke through last night, the Phillies drew first blood today when his fellow serial slumper David Dellucci socked one out to right.  It would open the floodgates for the Phils in a game where Cole Hamels took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.   

The Phillies are alive and well in the Wild Card hunt, but the story of the day may still prove to be the injury to the precious left arm of Hamels that hasn't happened yet.  Hamels started the eighth inning of a game the Phillies were winning 7-1 on his way to throwing a career-high 116 pitches.

The Phillies beat the Astros today, winning 7-2 to improve to 76-72 on the year.  The Phils have won four of their last five.

Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies and was other-worldly.  He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing a run on three hits and four walks.  He did not allow a hit until the seventh inning.  On of the hits went for extra-bases, a double.  He struck out 11.

In the first inning, Hamels hit leadoff man Willy Tavares to start the inning.  Hamels got out of the inning when Biggio grounded into a double-play and Berkman followed with a ground out to third.

With one out in the second, Hamels walked Chris Burke.  Burke stole second, but Jason Lane struck out and Adam Everett grounded out to first to end the inning.

In the third, Brad Ausmus led off with a walk.  The pitcher Hirsh bunted a ball high in the air down the third base line.  Hamels and Nunez converged on the ball, which wound up bouncing off the glove of Nunez.  The Phillies were fortunate that Ausmus had to hold at first when the ball was popped in the air -- he was easily forced at second for the first out.  Hamels struck out Tavares for the second out of the inning and Biggio to end the frame.

Hamels walked Morgan Ensberg with one out in the fourth.  He struck out Burke and got Lane to ground out to third to end the inning.

Hamels set the Astros down 1-2-3 in the fifth and again in the sixth.  He took a no-hitter into the seventh having thrown 85 pitches.

In the seventh, Ensberg led off and flew to right.  Hamels struck out Burke.  Jason Lane worked the count full and Hamels threw him a fastball that was up and in for a walk. Everett smoked the first pitch he saw into right-center, scoring Lane from first to cut the Phillies lead to 4-1.  Hamels stayed in to pitch to pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff, who hit a ball hard into center but Victorino tracked down to end the inning.

Cole Hamels started the eighth inning with a 7-1 lead, having thrown 103 pitches.  Wow.  Really bad idea, one-hitter or not.  If you were going to make a really short list of bad things to do with your 22-year-old with a history of injury problems, letting him start the eighth inning after he's thrown 103 pitches in a 7-1 game would go near the top.

With one out in the eighth, Tavares looped a ball over the head of Howard and was safe at first with a single.  Biggio popped to left for the second out of the inning.  Manuel left Hamels in to pitch to Berkman, who singled into center and Manuel finally took Hamels out of the game.  With the righty Ensberg at the plate, Manuel called on Geary.  Of course he did.  He always calls on Geary.  Ensberg singled, scoring Tavares from second to cut the Phillies lead to 7-2.  Geary got Burke to fly to center to end the inning.

Madson pitched the ninth, allowing a one out single to Mike Lamb but keeping the Astros off the board.

The Phillies lineup against righty Jason Hirsh went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Dellucci (7) Coste (8) Nunez.  Burrell returns to the five hole and Dellucci plays right against the righty.  Manuel knocks off the three lefties in a row, which reliably seems to end with Conine pinch-hitting for Dellucci against a lefty and the other team bringing in a righty to pitch to Conine.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the first.  In the second, Howard walked to lead off the inning but Burrell struck out and Dellucci popped to third.  Coste was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second with two down for Nunez.  Nunez popped out to second to end the inning.

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the third.  The inning ended on a play where Victorino looked like he beat the covering pitcher to the bag after a ground ball to first, but Shane was called out.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the fourth.  In the fifth, Coste and Nunez singled back-to-back, putting runners on first and second for Hamels.  Hamels tried to bunt and popped out to Ausmus for the second out of the inning.  Rollins popped to short to end the inning.

With two outs in the sixth and the score still tied at 0-0, Howard hit a long fly ball to left field.  A fan reached out and touched the ball near the top of the fence.  Even with the benefit of replay it was hard to tell if the ball should have been called a home run or a double.  Howard got a double and Burrell flew out to center to end the inning.

The Phillies finally broke through in the seventh.  Dellucci led off with a home run that put the Phillies up 1-0.  It was the first home run for the struggling Dellucci since August 15.  Coste followed with a walk and Nunez reached on an error by Berkman, putting runners on first and second with one down.  Hamels tried to bunt and again couldn't get it done, bunting the third strike foul.  Rollins was next and he ripped a double into left-center, scoring Coste and sending Nunez to third with one out and the Phils up 2-0.  Victorino followed and singled into right, scoring Nunez while Rollins went to third.  3-0.  Utley was next and he hit a ground ball up the middle.  The shortstop Everett made a dive to snag the ball behind second base, but Biggio couldn't handle the toss and the runners were safe at first and second with Rollins scoring to make it 4-0 Phillies.  Howard and Burrell struck out to end the inning.

Dellucci led off the eighth with a walk and, since it worked so well last night, Manuel called on Bourn to pinch run.  Coste was next and singled, sending Bourn to third.  Nunez followed with a triple that cleared the bases and put the Phillies up 6-1.  Having thrown 103 pitches through seven innings, Hamels hit for himself and flew out to left with Nunez holding at third.  Rollins followed with a sac fly into center, which brought in Nunez and put the Phils up 7-1. 

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the ninth.

Rollins was 1-for-4 with a double and two-RBI.

Victorino was 1-for-5.

Utley 1-for-5 with an RBI.

Howard was 1-for-4 with a single and a walk.

Burrell celebrated his return to the five-hole with a hideous game at the plate.  After seemingly changing his approach to break out of his slump, he looked like his old slumping self today, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  In two of his at-bats he put himself in an 0-2 hole by taking the first two pitches for strikes.

Dellucci was 1-for-3 with the home run that broke the 0-0 tie in the seventh.  It would be huge for the Philllies if they could get him going.

Coste was 2-for-2 with a walk.  He was 5-for-his-last-32 coming into the game.

Nunez was 2-for-4 with a triple and two-RBI.

Randy Wolf faces Wandy Rodriguez tomorrow afternoon.

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