The Phillies' starting pitching staff leads all major league teams in wins (31) and ERA (3.20). But the strength of their rotation is its depth, and losing any one arm would be a big blow to the team's chances at winning its fifth straight National League East title.
On that note, manager Charlie Manuel likely breathed a long sigh of relief when the back injury that forced Cole Hamels out of Tuesday's 9-1 win over the Florida Marlins was nothing more than a minor hiccup in Hamels' otherwise dominant night.
"He kind of had a knot in his back," Manuel said.
Hamels became one of three major league pitchers, with teammate Roy Halladay and Boston's Jon Lester, to win nine games. Hamels held Florida to one run on three hits in seven innings.
From the end of the first inning through the sixth, Hamels retired 17 straight batters.
But after the seventh inning, he told catcher Carlos Ruiz that his back was aching. Afterward, Hamels downplayed the ailment and blamed it on a bad weather day in Philadelphia: The start of Tuesday's game was delayed for 80 minutes by rain.
"I think it just kind of tightened up on me," Hamels said. "There was the rain delay; obviously, it got a lot colder and my body temperature dropped and everything was kind of tightening up. Obviously, I don't think it's that smart to go out and try to compete and not be able to compete at my best. Obviously, I don't want to hurt anything. So it was just something where I was trying to play it smart."
Hamels wasn't exactly in a talking mood when he arrived at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday's day-night double-header. "I'm not injured. I'll talk to you guys in five days," said Hamels as he walked past reporters outside the Phillies clubhouse. The word though is that Hamels is healthy and there are no concerns about him being able to make his start Sunday in Seattle.
Hamels left after walking Wes Helms to begin the eighth inning. But he put in enough work in the game's first seven innings to keep a two-month long run of dominance intact.
Since giving up six runs in his 2011 debut, Hamels has gone 9-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his last 13 starts.