MIAMI - Upside down as it may seem, the Phillies last night needed the comfort of having Cole Hamels live up to the pitching standards recently established by Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer.
Hamels looms as the Phils' top-of-rotation starter the way the statue of William Penn once looked down on all of Center City.
It's just that in three of his four previous starts before he took the mound against Florida at Land Shark Stadium, Hamels didn't pitch like the staff ace.
Judging by the way he threw against the Florida Marlins in a 6-5 Phillies win that went 12 innings and lurched on well past midnight, the only thing that prevented Hamels from going deep into the game was a 1-hour, 18-minute delay caused by a tropical cloudburst.
Unfortunately for Hamels, the rain stopped and the bullpen failed him miserably despite being well-rested, proving incapable of protecting the 4-1 lead the Phillies had built before the game was delayed in the bottom of the sixth.
Fortunately for the Phillies, Chase Utley never lets up until the final out. The all-star second baseman, who got the Phillies off to a quick start with a two-run homer in the first, erased several late-game mistakes by singling home Jimmy Rollins with the go-ahead run. Jayson Werth gave closer Brad Lidge the clincher by knocking in the final run.
Pitching for the first time in a week, Lidge walked a high wire for his 19th save. He issued back-to-back walks with one out, allowed a run to score on a wild pitch, and finally ended the marathon by getting Dan Uggla on a groundout with the tying run on third.
Two former Phillies - Ronny Paulino and Wes Helms - pulled one over on their former team with run-scoring hits in a two-run eighth inning that tied the score, 4-4. After the delay, Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin combined to cough up a three-run lead before Clay Condrey settled things down.
Hamels, pitching with an extra day of rest, made one mistake in five innings before the sky opened. He allowed one run - a homer to leadoff hitter Chris Coghlan in the first - and four hits while striking out five.
The win stretched the Phillies' lead to six games over the Marlins and Braves in the NL East and was their seventh straight and 11th in their last 12 games. They have also won seven in a row over the Marlins in Miami.
When Werth lined a run-scoring single in the fourth inning to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead, he ended a string of five consecutive strikeouts - three looking - and 12 straight at-bats without a hit.
Werth's hit was the third successive single as the Phillies, noted for their home-run prowess, engaged in some small ball. There was nothing small about the double to left-center field by Pedro Feliz that made it 4-1.
But the Phillies let slip away a chance to heavily pad their lead when Hamels struck out and Rollins made the third out on a line drive to center with the bases loaded.
Manager Charlie Manuel had said that Hamels, on the team's flight to Florida, had the look of a pitcher eager to get going after the all-star break.
To do so, the lefthander first had to get command of his fastball, which he had been getting up in the strike zone. Pitching coach Rich Dubee suspected the reason Hamels was struggling to put his fastball where he wanted was a tired arm. He pointed out that young pitchers frequently get tired arms the season after they have had a significant increase in innings pitched.
Including the playoffs and World Series, Hamels pitched 2641/3 innings last season, an increase of 741/3 innings over the 2007 season.