Left-hander Cole Hamels fortified his stake as staff ace with 6 2-3 shutout innings in last night’s rubber-match in Washington. He wasn’t the only hurler who met the challenge of their assigned role this series.
There's nothing more enjoyable than an Antonio Alfonseca strikeout, and we’ve seen a lot of those lately. Since being bumped from the closer role, El Pulpo has become a seventh-inning stud. In seven appearances this month, he hasn’t allowed a run and has already fanned six, working out of Hamels’ jam last night in the seventh. Sometimes is isn’t pretty. Alfonseca got into a little trouble and surrendered a hard-fought walk to Tony Batista, but the best pitch of the night may have been Alfonseca’s sinking, tailing fastball to Felipe Lopez to finally end the Nationals’ threat.
It was the type of game that defines the No. 1 starter role, and Hamels has emerged as the best ace since Curt Schilling. Going down the line, others were up to task. Kyle Lohse opened the series with 6 2-3 solid innings. New 7-8-9 Alfonseca, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers slammed it shut. Gordon was roughed up last night on a pitch out over the plate to Ronnie Belliard and a decent pitch that was put into the right-field seats by Dimitri Young. Myers worked his second 1-2-3 ninth for his 11th save. Rookie Kyle Kendrick didn't have his best stuff Wednesday, but continues to avoid bullpen-ruining meltdowns.
After taking a series off, the bats need to come around beginning tonight in Pittsburgh. They could use a high-scoring game to give the A-list relievers a little rest.
Miscellaneous: An MRI showed there was no new damage to Shane Victorino. The outfielder could rehab again Monday ... Carlos Ruiz’s second-inning homer was his first since May 15 ... I’m hosting a set of football podcasts this season, one on the Eagles and one Penn State.