Cole Hamels came up big for the floundering Phillies, ending their losing streak with a brilliant day on the mound. (Source: Jeff Roberson)

Polanco's homer, Hamels' brilliance prevents Cardinals sweep

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Pedro Martinez is not coming back but Cole Hamels did his best impersonation Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hamels struck out the first five batters he faced, an impressive feat that had shades of Pedro’s electrifying All-Star Game performance in 1999.

The lefty’s day on the mound only got better. He pitched eight innings and allowed only one hit in a masterful performance.

The Phillies needed him to be near perfect to get a much-needed win. Hamels set the tone for the bullpen to keep the Cardinals off the board into extra innings until Placido Polanco came through with a solo shot off of Kyle McClellan in the top of the 11th. The Phillies tacked on another run to win the game 2-0. [...]

Philadelphia is on the verge of desperation as the Braves pull away from everyone in the East. The Phils can’t find their offense or the chemistry that led them to two straight World Series. Polanco has been the only consistent bat for the Phillies all year and he was the hero again.

St. Louis nearly stole one behind a gritty pitching performance from Adam Wainwright and the bullpen.

Wainwright went six scoreless innings, scattered six hits, and fanned six. It was another efficient outing from the Cards ace. The bullpen was dominant all series until extras when McClellan broke down. Philadelphia’s ‘pen was battered by the Cards hot bats until Thursday when the Redbirds managed just one hit.

Matt Holliday got that hit in the bottom of the fifth, but was doubled off on Allen Craig’s fly out to end any threat. Hamels wouldn’t allow another baserunner until he walked Yadier Molina in the bottom of the eighth. He quickly struck out Brendan Ryan to finish his day with a flourish.

It was a well-played and hard-fought game. Pitching ruled the day like it has all season in baseball and on this day, the Phillies arms outdid the Cardinals.

The Cards will look to start a new streak when they head to Wrigley Field for a three-game set with the Cubs. Chicago is in a transition time after Lou Piniella announced his retirement earlier this week. The Cubs are also likely to begin trading away some veterans with an eye on the future. The rivals are a few losses away from packing it in for good and the Cardinals could get out their suitcases and mark them for 2011.

Jeff Suppan gets the first crack at the Cubbies. He is coming off his best start of the year, throwing six innings and giving up one run against the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, the Cards front office should be busy trying to add some pieces to complete a team that is finally coming together. St. Louis is good, but a few good players could boost the team to challenge for a pennant and World Series championship.

Game Notes

Where will it be for Mr. Oswalt?

The Phillies and the Cardinals are the two teams that have been in talks with the Astros to get Roy Oswalt. Houston and Philadelphia had a deal in place but it caught a snag when Oswalt demanded that any team pick up his $16 million option for 2012. The Phillies backed off and reports indicate that the demand also has the Cards hesitant to pull the trigger. The option is too much money for Oswalt who will be 34 in 2012. The Phillies are falling fast despite their win today and it’s hard to see them going big at the deadline after the Cliff Lee debacle in the offseason. St. Louis would be a more attractive landing spot for the veteran pitcher as the team takes off heading into August. But there are a lot of questions in play for a deal to get done. Right now, Oswalt could be set to stay in Houston and collect his money on a bad team.

The Phillies and Cardinals would then have to look elsewhere. Philadelphia may swallow its pride and try to sneak in the playoffs with their current roster to keep the farm system and future relatively bright. The Cards are heading in the opposite direction. This team looks like a championship-caliber team in the heat of the summer and some help in the rotation and infield would go a long way in their quest for October success.

Sons of St. Louis

Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth usually enjoy playing in their hometown, but this season has been anything but fun for a Phillies team ravaged by injury and so used to winning. Howard has been the lone Phillies player doing his job. The big lefty has been carrying the Phils offense by himself all season and especially since the break. In Chicago, he hit towering home runs and lit up Cubs pitching but Philly still lost three of four. In St. Louis, he stayed hot. He had three hits to add to his dominance in Busch Stadium during the last five years. He is a career .388 hitter at home. Howard is just comfortable at home and he has been comfortable at the plate seemingly everywhere this season.

Jayson Werth has been the polar opposite to Howard since his big start to the year. Werth went from being a productive player that earned a starting spot on a championship to a strikeout machine who looks clueless at the plate. He often touches his knee to the ground after big whiffs and just looks pathetic. He is hitting .159 (13-for-82) with runners in scoring position, second-worst in the National League. This summer is a far cry from last when he was a clutch hitter and huge part of the Phillies deadly offensive attack.

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Tags: Adam Wainwright Cole Hamels Jayson Werth Matt Holliday Pedro Martinez Placido Polanco Roy Oswalt Ryan Howard St Louis Cardinals

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