ST. LOUIS -- Cole Hamels is ticked off. About what, we’re not sure, but there are many possibilities.
Hamels was visibly chapped as he headed out of the door of the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium 45 minutes after Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
What’s eating at the young man?
Well, Hamels wouldn’t say. He brushed by reporters as he made a beeline for the door.
“You talking?” a reporter asked Hamels as the pitcher marched by.
“No,” Hamels said.
No harm there. Players aren’t required to share their thoughts with reporters, and by extension, the fans, but when they don’t, assumptions are often made and little questions are left to fester and become big questions.
This wasn’t the first time that Hamels did not chat with reporters. He did not talk on June 1 after pitching seven innings and allowing just one earned run in a 4-3 loss to the Mets at home.
And he charged out of the clubhouse with a “nope” on May 20 of last season after he pitched six innings of two-run, no-walk, 10-strikeout ball in a 5-2 loss at Miami.
What was bugging Cole this time?
Maybe he was simply ticked off because the Phillies had their five-game winning streak halted.
Maybe he was ticked off at the home plate umpire’s strike zone.
Maybe he was ticked off because he pitched well and his teammates didn’t give him much run support.
Maybe he was ticked off because he was out-pitched by Adam Wainwright (8 innings, 1 run, 0 walks, 7 Ks) in a taut pitchers' duel.
Maybe he was ticked off that manager Ryne Sandberg didn’t call for Carlos Ruiz to bunt after Jimmy Rollins had led off the eighth with a single in a 1-1 game.
Maybe he was ticked off that he matched a season-high with five walks and two of them became runs, including the go-ahead run after a leadoff walk in the eighth.
Maybe he was ticked off that he was allowed to go out for the eighth inning after throwing 107 pitches over seven innings of one-run ball.
Maybe he’s having second thoughts about signing that huge contract extension with the Phils two summers ago instead of shopping himself on the free-agent market and signing with a sure-fire contender.
Maybe he was ticked off because the water was cold in the shower.
See, Hamels left a lot of questions unanswered and in doing so pointed an unspoken finger at his teammates, who often have trouble scoring runs when he’s on the mound.
Dating to early last season, 34 of Hamels’ last 45 outings have been quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs) and he is just 16-18 in those games largely because his club has averaged only 3.26 runs behind him in those 34 games.
That would frustrate anybody.
While Hamels would not offer insights into the game, Sandberg and catcher Carlos Ruiz did.
Ruiz confirmed that Hamels was upset with some of home-plate umpire Larry Vanover’s calls.
“A lot of pitches were right there,” Ruiz said. “We feel the umpire was a little inconsistent.”
Sandberg shot down the notion that Hamels was upset with Ruiz. The St. Louis television broadcast caught the two having an animated discussion in the dugout during the game.
“It’s possible there were a couple of borderline pitches,” Sandberg said. “It wasn’t with Chooch at all. They were on the same page. He was upset with himself a couple of times for missing locations. He was pretty much right on, but there were three or four pitches he was upset about.”
The game swung in the bottom of the eighth when Hamels opened the frame with his fifth walk (to Matt Carpenter) and Matt Holliday slugged a 2-2 changeup to left-center with one out to break a 1-1 tie. The Cards scored two more times in the inning to put the game away.
“It was a little up,” Ruiz said of the changeup that Holliday hit.
That was Hamels’ 120th pitch.
Sandberg had a rested bullpen that has pitched extremely well this month -- Phils’ relievers have a 1.16 ERA since June 3, the best in the majors -- but he opted to send Hamels out for the eighth and the rest is history.
“Yeah, there was a thought” about going to the bullpen, Sandberg said. “Cole threw 94 pitches in his last outing and we were checking with him. He was still throwing the ball good and had good stuff and felt strong. We still felt he had about 12 or 15 pitches to play with and as it ended up we gave him a chance for the double play to get out of the inning.”
Sandberg was asked whether Hamels talked him into staying in the game.
“He said he felt good,” was Sandberg’s answer.
Despite the loss, the Phillies are still 5-1 on this road trip with a chance to finish 6-1 on Sunday.
“We still have a chance to have a very good road trip and win a series,” Sandberg said. “That’s big.”