by PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
July 19 2015, 5:15 PM EST.
PHILADELPHIA - The primary storyline entering Sunday's contest at Citizens Bank Park was Cole Hamels in what may have been his final start at home in a Phillies uniform. The afternoon ended, however, with Jeff Francoeur belting a walk-off two-run home run to lift the Phillies past the Marlins, 8-7.
The victory concluded a three-game sweep for the Phillies, and for at least a moment, Francoeur stole the spotlight from Hamels.
"Well, we probably have the best record in baseball for the second half," Francoeur said with a laugh. "It was good to see everyone hit this weekend and do well. Anytime you get a sweep it's a good time."
The walk-off was the third of Francoeur's career.
As for Hamels, nearly a dozen scouts combated scorching heat to see him pitch. Unfortunately, he lasted just three innings and surrendered five runs on eight hits. Combined with his last start in San Francisco, he's allowed 14 runs on 20 hits and that's not something he's done since August of 2008.
"He just made some bad pitches, he wasn't sharp," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. "He's allowed to have a couple bad starts ... once he was in the seventies with his pitch count, there was no way I wanted to have him hit ninety pitches in four innings so I decided to take him out of the game."
With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, Hamels remains a prime target for teams looking to make a run at the postseason. He remains the biggest bargaining chip the Phillies have and the prospects the club receives in return could potentially be the nucleolus of the current rebuild.
The good news is Hamels' recent troubles seem more related to poor pitch location than velocity. Entering Sunday his average fastball for the season sat at 91 mph with his average speed on Sunday 90.7 mph.
"When you fall into bad counts, have to throw strikes and have guys on it's tough to make that perfect pitch," Hamels said. "Trying to make them put it in play and get the ground outs or as many outs as possible with one pitch, but if they find a hole they find a hole."
Hamels' next scheduled start is Saturday at Wrigley Field against the Cubs and you can be sure a number of scouts will be in attendance as the trade deadline inches closer.
"The way I look at it he's pitched in two World Series', been an outstanding quality starter for years, I'd like to believe [the trade] speculation hasn't had an affect on him," Mackanin said. "I just think he's in a little bit of a rut."
Ceasar Hernandez broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh with a slicing double down the left-field line to score Francoeur who reached on a pinch-hit single to open the inning. The Marlins answered in the eighth, scoring a pair of runs off reliever Ken Giles to take a 7-6.
Carlos Ruiz opened the ninth for the Phillies with a walk off Marlins' reliever A.J. Ramos, allowing Francoeur to deposit a 1-0 fastball into the seats in left.
Soon thereafter, all the spotlight turned back to Hamels and his immediate future in Philadelphia.
"Like I've said all year, I've got to focus on what I can do on a daily basis while I'm here," Hamels said. "What I've done over the last week and a half hasn't been up to my standards or the expectations of my teammates, so I need to grind away and take the next few days to get back to square one so I'm ready for Saturday."
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