WASHINGTON - Greg Dobbs stepped into the batter's box in the ninth inning tonight without the tightness he had felt in his back since he tweaked it Monday at Nationals Park.
He had adrenaline to thank for that.
But with the discomfort numbed momentarily, he still had a job to do. He had to hit a ball off Washington closer Jon Rauch into the outfield to score the Phillies' first run since Sunday.
Dobbs had been 0 for 3 against Rauch. But he hit a one-out bloop single to center field to score pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett from third base and give the Phillies a 1-0 victory over the Nationals, which made Cole Hamels feel just fine about the seven shutout innings he had thrown.
"When I hit it, I knew it would fall," Dobbs said. "I was just watching Bruntlett out of the corner of my eye. He was sitting on the bag making sure it fell. So after I hit it, it was more like, 'Bruntlett, you're going to score, right? You're going to score, right? Yeah, you're going to score.' Then there's the 'woooh.' Relief."
Relief for a few reasons:
The victory snapped the Phillies' three-game losing streak.
The run stopped their 17-inning scoreless streak.
The hit ended an 0-for-20 skid without a hit with runners in scoring position.
Dobbs is batting .455 (10 for 22) as a pinch-hitter this season. He leads the majors in pinch-hit RBIs with nine and pinch hits with 10. It was the Phillies' first hit with a runner in scoring position since Geoff Jenkins knocked in a run in the fifth inning of Sunday's loss to Toronto.
They didn't know it, but the Phillies were trying to avoid their first back-to-back shutouts since Sept. 11-12, 1999, against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
If that had happened, they would have wasted another stellar performance by Hamels. He threw his first career shutout Thursday against Atlanta in Philadelphia. In seven innings tonight, he allowed just four hits and two walks. He struck out 11.
Hamels left with a career-high 19-inning scoreless streak, dating from his May 9 start in San Francisco.
"Is he going for Hershiser's record?" Charlie Manuel said. "It's up to him. If it's up to me, he might get Hershiser's and anybody who's after that."
There's nobody after him. Orel Hershiser threw a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings in 1988.
"That is so far away," Hamels said. "That's the last thing I even want to worry about."
He pitched well. The Phillies scored a run.
He'll take that for now.