Hamels makes All-Star statement

Phillies' Hamels first to nine wins in NL

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels missed twice with first-inning fastballs to Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye, and each sent them far out to left field. Unfazed, the cocksure left-hander walked off the mound and said nothing to catcher Rod Barajas.

He knew not to worry.

The Phillies answered with three runs in the bottom of the first off Jose Contreres, and Hamels rolled to a 7-3 victory on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

"I've caught quite a few games where he gives up early runs and keeps his composure," Barajas said. "He knows what's going on. His changeup and fastball were good, and he knew those two [home runs allowed] just weren't good pitches. He forgot what happened in the first and came right back. I didn't have to say anything to him."

The Phillies' ace said the rest in silencing the struggling White Sox, who fell to 3-14 in their last 17 games. Hamels surrendered six hits in eight innings, and rolled to his National League-leading ninth win.

Can you say All-Star consideration?

"That's my plan," Hamels said. "What's the point of trying to be the best if you don't want to go where the best players are? That was a goal of mine last year, even though I didn't have enough time."

Hamels has had plenty of time to state his case over the season's first three months, as he leads the NL in strikeouts (104) and wins.

"You look at what he's done for the team and for himself," Barajas said. "He strikes guys out. He wins games. He carries himself like an All-Star. He can swing the bat, too. If he doesn't make it, it would be a shame because he deserves it."

Hamels began his night extending his NL lead of home runs allowed, with two given up in the first inning, and continued a trend of surrendering the long ball, with eight homers allowed in his previous four starts.

He's rarely killed by that, though, as 13 of the 16 he's allowed have been solo home runs.

"When guys are on, there's a different competitiveness because I don't want them to score," Hamels said. "I dig deeper and challenge guys more. I threw a couple of pitches that were off, and boom, they're in the seats. Fortunately, there's nine innings."

The Phillies didn't need nine frames to retake the lead. The offense evaporated the deficit in the bottom of the first with a three spot, highlighted by a two-run, two-out single by Greg Dobbs.

Hamels lasted eight innings and held the White Sox scoreless for the next seven. The Phillies rolled, getting help from Chase Utley's three hits and four RBIs, including a two-run homer.

For a second, let's pretend the baseball season began April 21.

In that world, the Phillies' 30-20 record would top the NL East, ahead of the Mets (26-22) and Braves (24-24). Manager Charlie Manuel would have gotten his wish, as New York would be chasing Philadelphia.

Since all games count equally, the Phillies can't be excused for a 4-11 start that put them in catch-up mode, and they remain in third place, three games behind the Mets, who lost to the Dodgers on Tuesday night. That's not so bad after a loss to San Francisco on June 4 pushed Philadelphia eight games back.

"I feel better than I did when we were eight or nine [games out]," Manuel said. "If we get guys back and the fact that we got [Ryan] Howard back playing and if we can get [Tom] Gordon and [Brett] Myers back, things could get real interesting."

For now, leave it to Hamels to keep things relevant. He's eating up innings, and giving the Phillies quality outings.

"Cole's pitched outstanding all year," Utley said. "You feel if you get a one- or two-run lead, he's going to hold it for you. He has the kind of stuff to dominate teams."

Added Dobbs: "He's a tremendous presence on the mound. We feed off of him when he's on the mound. There are guys that have that, and you can't define it ... it's just an intangible that he has."

Call it an All-Star presence.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.