Cole admits it: ‘I was trying to hit him'



WASHINGTON -- With a fastball into the small of the back of hotshot Nationals rookie Bryce Harper, Cole Hamels delivered a clear message to the home dugout that the Nationals might be off to a great start this year and they might have won the first couple games of the series and they might have won seven straight against the Phils, but the Phils arent ready to give up N.L. East dominance just yet.


Harper symbolizes these Nationals. Young, exciting, fast. Hes a 19-year-old phenom on a team loaded with young phenoms, and Hamels had seen and heard enough from the Nationals the past couple days and all year.

It was time to make a statement.

So when Harper swaggered up to the plate in the bottom of the first of the Phillies-Nationals national TV game, Hamels fired a first-pitch fastball.

Like most of Hamels pitches Sunday night, it went exactly where he wanted it.

Right at Harper.

Best of all, Hamels bragged about it a few hours later, after pitching the Phillies to a 9-3 win at Nationals Park (see Instant Replay).

Its just, Welcome to the big leagues, Hamels said in the clubhouse after eight dominating innings. I was trying to hit him. I mean, Im not going to deny it.

This was a message pitch with a message.

The Phils might be scuffling a little bit right now, but theyre not going away without a fight.

And a brilliant left-hander whos been a World Series MVP, but has never totally been accepted in Philly, might have cemented his status as a Philly legend with one 93-mph pitch that was three feet inside.


Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman returned the favor in the third, hitting Hamels in his lower left leg. Home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher warned both dugouts, and that was the end of it.

Im not going to injure a guy, and theyre probably not going to like me for it, but Im not going to lie and say I wasnt trying to do it, Hamels said. I think they understood the messages, and they threw it right back, and I think thats the way it should be done, and I respect it.

After he got hit, Harper didnt glare at Hamels or throw his bat. He simply ran to first and ended up stealing home for the Nationals only run off Hamels.

After the game, Harper didnt say anything more controversial than, Hes a great pitcher and a great guy.

Thats the old-school baseball way Hamels likes it. We hit a guy, they hit a guy, nobody charges the mound, nobody gets beaned, and theres mutual respect in both clubhouses.

Oh yeah, thats baseball, Hamels said. Im kind of happy thats the way it works, because thats the way it should.

And I dont think the umpires should interfere with it. Let baseball be baseball. I grew up playing the game hard and watching it, and thats the way it was, and Id hate for them to change it, which has kind of happened in recent years. Just let it play out and then we get back to playing, and thats just the way it is.

Hamels improved to 4-1, scattering five hits, walking one and striking out eight. He hasnt lost in a month, going 4-0 in five starts since his first one this year, with a 2.06 ERA and six walks and 35 strikeouts in 35 innings.

But with the Phils in danger of falling 6 12 games behind the upstart Nationals, who havent been to the playoffs since 1981, when the franchise was based in Montreal, Hamels gave the Phillies more of a lift with a hit by pitch than any of the 24 batters he retired.

Charlie Manuel said Hamels was trying to go up and in on Harper.

Hamels saw it a little different.

You know what, its something I grew up watching, because thats kind of what happened, and Im trying to continue the old baseball tradition, Hamels said. Because I think some people kind of get away from it.

I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone for Hamels was really, really small, and you didnt say anything, because thats the way baseball is. But unfortunately, the league sometimes protects certain players and makes it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball.

Was it a coincidence the Phillies scored nine runs on the night their soft-spoken southpaw came out of his shell and basically bragged about throwing a fastball into the back of one of the games hottest prospects?

Who knows. But the Phils, who scored just four runs in the first two games of the series, won a game they really needed, salvaging the third game of the series and evening their record at 3-3 on the short road trip.

Hunter Pence homered twice, two-run shots in the fourth and ninth, Placido Polanco had three hits to raise his average to .268, and Juan Pierre added two and is now hitting .333. Late-inning replacement Freddy Galvis added a two-run single.

Strangely, Hamels night ended in the batters box. With the Phillies leading 3-1, he led off the top of the ninth by flying out to center and expected to head out for the ninth to go for his first complete game of the year.

But when his spot in the batting order came around again 35 minutes later, the score was 9-1 and his night was over.

When you start games and youre pitching well you want to be able to finish them, he said. But theres a window of time you kind of have before you lose all ounce of strength and you get the stiffening up, and thats kind of what was happening.

Im just happy our team was scoring runs. Its always nice when the bats are going.

E-mail Reuben Frank at

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