LOS ANGELES - It happened fast. First, the Phillies were leading, then they were tied, then they watched So Taguchi's throw arrive a bit too late, and Russell Martin slide in safe, and Andre Ethier celebrate a walkoff RBI single that lifted the Dodgers to a 4-3 win over the stunned Phillies last night.
For seven innings, it appeared as if Cole Hamels finally would get his 10th victory that several times over the past month he has richly deserved.
But again, he pitched well enough to earn a win, and for the seventh straight start, he was left without one. He allowed a run in the first and a run in the sixth, but was otherwise flawless. He pitched seven innings, threw 111 pitches, allowed five hits and walked two, both intentionally.
And after getting fewer than four runs of support in four of his last six games, he decided to take matters into his own hands, driving in a run with a worm-burner that bounced off the third-base bag for an infield RBI single in the second inning.
Hamels now is 9-8 with a 3.32 ERA. His seven innings gives him 173 2/3 for the season, 10 innings shy of setting a new career high.
Hamels' last victory came on July 3 against Atlanta. Since then, he is 0-3 in seven starts, despite carrying a respectable 3.60 ERA during that stretch. Hamels has pitched at least seven innings and allowed fewer than four runs in 13 of his 25 starts this season, but has earned the victory in only seven of them.
"They got the hit where we couldn't in the ninth inning," manager Charlie Manuel said.
"It's only a matter of time. He's a tremendous pitcher. He's going to win a lot of games."
The Phillies got their scoring out of the way early, getting a solo home run from Chase Utley in the first, in addition to Hamels' RBI single.
But they were held scoreless for the game's final six innings, stranding runners in scoring position twice.
Los Angeles tied the game in the eighth after loading the bases against Phillies reliever Chad Durbin, who escaped the jam allowing only one run, on a sacrifice fly by Casey Blake that scored Matt Kemp from third.
But the Dodgers weren't done. Phillies lefty J.C. Romero hit Martin with a pitch to lead off the ninth. Martin moved to second on a groundout by James Loney, bringing Ethier to the plate; he laced a single into leftfield for the game-winning hit.
Manny Ramirez once again was a difference-maker. One night after going 2-for-3 with two RBI in the Phillies' 8-6 loss, the former Red Sox star reached base three times and hit an RBI single in the sixth that cut the Phillies' lead to 3-2.
Ramirez' single came at the end of a thrilling at-bat against Hamels. Hamels threw four straight pitches inside - Ramirez fouled off one, took two balls, then was called for a strike after going around on the fourth pitch. Hamels then went outside with his fifth pitch, just missing off the plate. Ramirez then hit the 3-2 pitch into centerfield to drive in Juan Pierre.
"I was just frustrated with myself, because I knew I had him," Hamels said. "If I would have thrown it anywhere remotely in that zone, I think he would have taken it for a strike, and I just wasn't able to do it.
"And I was just frustrated, just because when you know you have a guy, you really have to execute, and I wasn't able to execute."
The Phillies entered the night with yet another revamped lineup from the pen - and brain - of Manuel. About the only lineup combination the manager hasn't considered this season is Utley batting leadoff. Last night, he had Shane Victorino at the top of the order, and normal leadoff man Jimmy Rollins hitting third.
The last time Victorino led off, he went 3-for-3 with three RBI and two home runs in a loss to Arizona on July 12. This time, he struggled, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts before leaving the game with lower-back spasms before the bottom of the seventh.
Victorino said it got worse as the game progressed.
"Way worse," he said. "I shouldn't have played."
Rollins went 1-for-4, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly by Pat Burrell in the third after doubling to left-center and stealing third.
The teams combined for only seven runs and 13 hits, but there was plenty of action to keep the Dodger Stadium crowd occupied.
Hamels' hit in the second was crucial: Dodgers rookie lefthander Clayton Kershaw had recorded two quick outs to start the inning and needed to retire only one of the final three hitters in the Phillies' order to finish it. Back-to-back singles by Chris Coste and Eric Bruntlett changed that, bringing Hamels to the plate with a chance to add to the lead. *