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Phillies back Hamels in a big way

Phils back Hamels in a big way

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HOUSTON -- Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels finds it difficult to embrace the notion that he won't win every start and cruise to a career filled with 20-win seasons, Cy Young Awards and All-Star appearances.

He just needs reminders, such as the mathematics that explain that 10 wins come before 20. After getting his ninth win June 12, the lefty compiled a 6.92 ERA in three attempts at double digits, and reached an admitted breaking point in an uncharacteristic five-walk performance against the Mets on June 29.

A humbled and single-minded Hamels controlled the Astros in a series-salvaging 8-3 win at Minute Maid Park, and allowed the Phillies to erase the memory of Tuesday's game-changing late blown call by first-base umpire Lance Barksdale.

"You have to get to 10 before you get to 20," said Hamels, who became the first Phillies starter to reach 10 wins by the All-Star break since Eric Milton in 2004. "When you think outside those lines, you get in trouble, and I did. I was thinking about [making] the All-Star team [against the Mets] and paid for it. It's selfish and not for the team. I had that breaking, boiling point against the Mets and realized, 'That's definitely not me.'"

Relaxed against the Astros, Hamels rediscovered the feel for his changeup and cruised through seven highly effective innings, and benefited from a 13-hit attack. Houston also had 13 hits, though Philadelphia put theirs to much better use.

Four of the 13 Phillies hits were home runs by Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Wes Helms and Pat Burrell that accounted for seven of Philadelphia's eight runs. Three more went for extra bases. Helms turned in his second straight three-hit game, and Burrell's homer was his second of the series.

"[The win] was big," Helms said. "Cole pitched his heart out and we were able to get some runs for him."

In his final All-Star tuneup, Hamels shook off his previous three outings, and made one mistake that Eric Munson turned into an opposite-field home run.

"Hamels was good, but I've seen him better," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He pounded his fastball, even when he got hit at times. He went to 115 pitches, and that was good for him. I think he got some stuff off his chest."

It's a long road to Superstardom City, and Hamels hopes he completed his short detour. Sure, he wanted to make an All-Star team, but he also wants to show his teammates that he can be their ace in his first full big-league season. With injuries to Jon Lieber and Freddy Garcia, and rookie Kyle Kendrick in the rotation, Hamels feels he's the glue.

Do the injuries create more pressure?

"Of course," Hamels said. "When all of a sudden you're not that guy in the back and [you're] pushed to the top, you want to show everybody. You know you're not flying under the radar. It's a little bit different and you have to get used to it."

"We had our horse on the mound, and that helped," said Chase Utley, who came within a homer of the cycle. "[Tuesday] night could have turned out better, but what are you going to do?"

The Phillies came out crisp Wednesday after Barksdale's gaff turned a win into an eventual loss the night before. Though he apologized to Manuel on Wednesday in the eighth inning -- when Manuel came out to make a double-switch -- the loss still counts.

"He said he had to apologize because I told him last night, 'If I'm wrong, I'll apologize to you,'" Manuel said. "I told him, 'Even I made a mistake one day.'"

As for the win, "The biggest thing I can say about our team -- I've been saying it all year long -- we don't quit," Manuel said. "We rebound overnight. We can be real bad one night, then bounce back and play a [great] game."

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

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