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SF@PHI: Hamels hailed by the Phillies' faithful

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels, glove in hand, walked off the mound as the largest announced regular-season crowd in Citizens Bank Park history gave him a standing ovation. The 28-year-old southpaw appeased the crowd with a quick wave before disappearing into the Phillies dugout.

Mired in trade rumors due to his impending free agency and the Phillies' last-place division standing, it's possible that Saturday's 6-5 10-inning loss could have marked Hamels' last home start with Philadelphia. Reports say negotiations between the two parties have heated up over the last several days, but until something becomes official, the speculation on his future will continue.

"I think that's just kind of up in the air with [general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.] and my agent [John Boggs] and just trying to work things out," Hamels said of his contract situation.

Hamels, a homegrown talent and former World Series MVP, wasn't at his best Saturday but kept his club in the game. He exited to mass applause with two outs in the eighth inning of a 5-5 game after throwing a career-high 128 pitches. He allowed 10 hits, including three long balls, struck out six and walked three.

Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon helped bring the game to extra innings but a Gregor Blanco drag-bunt RBI single off the Philadelphia closer in the 10th inning was the game winner. It was the Phillies' third consecutive loss -- seventh straight at home -- and dropped them to 41-54.

Throughout this disenchanting season of Phillies baseball, Hamels has maintained that his looming free agency is not on his mind. But if he and the Phillies cannot come to terms on a contract extension before the July 31 Trade Deadline, there is a chance the three-time All-Star could pitch the rest of the season for a contender.

Asked if he thought for a minute that Saturday could have been his last home start as a Phillie, Hamels said, "When I'm out there, that's not the case.

"I have to make one pitch. I have to try to execute. I have to try to win the ballgame," he said. "That's ultimately what I've tried to stick to, no matter what. Those types of thoughts are always going to be, I guess, after the fact and after the game or in between games when I'm not playing. But when I'm playing, it's 100 percent, everything I have, trying to win the ballgame and trying to make pitches."

Manager Charlie Manuel lauded the way Hamels has handled his situation.

"I don't think his contract's anything to do with nothing for him this year really," the skipper said. "I mean that."

Fittingly, the man pitching for the opposition Saturday signed an extension in the spring that will help shape Hamels' next contract. Matt Cain, a couple of weeks removed from starting the All-Star Game for the National League, inked a five-year, $112.5 million extension with San Francisco in April.

Expected to be a pitchers' duel between Hamels and Cain, Saturday's game turned into somewhat of a slugfest. Each starter surrendered three home runs and both the starters notched one of their own in the third inning. It was the first time two opposing pitchers homered in the same game since Kevin Millwood of the Braves and the Rockies' Denny Stark did so on May 18, 2002. It was the first time it happened in the same inning since May 1990.

"I think we're just the opposite twins right there, him from the right side, me from the left side," said Hamels, whose long ball was the first of his career. "I guess we were separated at birth. Every time we pitch against each other, they're tough games and it can go either way. I think that's pretty ironic just to kind of see the way that kind of happened today. I'm sure we'll be talking about later."

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard also homered off Cain. Howard's was a three-run shot in the sixth that gave Philadelphia a 5-4 lead, but Melky Cabrera tied the game with a solo homer in the eighth.

After retiring the side in order in the ninth, Papelbon (2-4) walked Cabrera and gave up a bloop single to Buster Posey, who tied a career high with four hits Saturday. Papelbon struck out Pablo Sandoval to bring up Blanco, who laid a drag bunt down the first-base line for a base hit that scored Cabrera.

The Phillies play just seven more games -- one against the Giants and a pair of three-game series against the Brewers and Braves -- before the Trade Deadline.

With the newly implemented second Wild Card spot, Hamels expressed faith the Phillies still have a chance for a playoff berth. He said it's going to take all 25 players giving it their all and the club just has to take it one game at a time.

But do the current team's struggles play a role in Hamels' long-term decision?

"Yeah. You don't like playing for a team that loses. But unfortunately, it takes all of us. If I'm not winning my ballgames then I'm obviously a culprit, too," he said. "I know the atmosphere here [in Philadelphia] is that they want to win and they want to win now. That's always the key, I think, to anything is the organization wants to win, the fans want to win, the players want to win. That's ultimately what we have to stick with and that's kind of the decision that I would ever revert to."

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