WASHINGTON — If Cole Hamels is feeling frustrated by the lack of support from his teammates, he did a pretty good job masking it after Sunday afternoon’s 6-1 loss to Washington at Nationals Park.
Though he was masterful through six innings, trading zero after zero on the scoreboard with Nats ace Stephen Strasburg while working on a three-hit shutout, Hamels didn’t get the runs he needed.
Actually, Hamels didn’t get any runs …
Hamels hasn’t pitched with the lead in any game since April 7 and has received just 20 runs of support in 69 innings. In his last nine starts, the lefty has a 3.40 ERA. The opposition has a 2.02 ERA against the Phillies in those games. Through six innings, the offense produced just three singles, and Hamels had hit one of them.
When the bottom fell out in the five-run seventh, the Phillies then failed to support Hamels in the field. Errors by Michael Young and Delmon Young and a bang-bang play at first fielded by second baseman Freddy Galvis gave the Nationals the opening they needed.
As a result, Hamels fell to 1-8, allowing five runs (just three of which were earned) on six hits and a walk (see Instant Replay).
“He pitches his ass off for us every time,” said Kevin Frandsen, who started at first base for the ailing Ryan Howard (see story). “As his teammates, sooner or later we’re going to come through for him. Obviously, it’s kind of like what happened with Cliff (Lee) last year. We didn’t score for him and he pitched his ass off for us.”
Hamels struck out the side in the first inning and recorded five of his first six outs on whiffs. He also greeted 20 of the 26 hitters he faced with first-pitch strikes. Through six innings, the Nationals got two hits from Strasburg on a lucky-bounce, cue-shot of a double and an infield single. When Ryan Zimmerman beat out a weak grounder to Galvis to open the seventh, the Nats made the most of their chances by simply putting the ball in play.
Still, Hamels seemed as if he was going to escape the seventh unscathed. With the bases loaded and one out, he got catcher Jhonatan Solano to hit a slow dribbler toward Michael Young at third base. Though he fielded the ball cleanly and had time to cut down Zimmerman at the plate, Young’s throw was wild and two runs scored.
“I knew it would be bang-bang. In fact, my gut told me he probably was going to have a bead on [reaching the plate first] and be safe,” Young said. “But you have to go for it there. If I changed anything I probably would’ve have brought it back up to throw it. I probably would’ve shoveled it like a second baseman feed. It was a good pitch, broken bat, and I tried to come in and get it there.
“I know I have to go for it. If it were in the beginning of the game I might have thought twice and set my feet and got the out at first. But there I know I have to go to the plate.”
Two pitches later, Hamels was out of the game when Steve Lombardozzi hit a two-run double and then advanced to third after rightfielder Delmon Young had trouble picking up the ball.
That comes to three pitches, two errors and four runs.
“That’s something where if you keep putting the balls in play, things happen,” Hamels said. “I made the pitches I wanted to make. Ultimately, the results didn’t transpire the way I would like. They definitely made things work. When you swing the bats and put balls in play, you make the opposing team try to make the plays. If it doesn't happen, then you’re able to get away with wins. It’s the aspect of baseball where you’d rather put the ball in play rather than watch pitches go by. And they did it perfectly.”
The Phillies, meanwhile, did not. Strasburg got nine strikeouts in eight innings, allowing just six fair balls to leave the infield. Strasburg also had five 1-2-3 innings. For the first seven innings, the Phillies had only two runners to make it past first base, and they scored their one run only because Strasburg balked it home.
In other words, it was another typical game with Hamels on the mound.
“We’re just having a hard time scoring for him,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We’re having a hard time offensive-wise anyway, but scoring for him in particular, yeah. We’re having a hard time scoring for him. It seems like definitely things aren’t going his way right now. It’s something he’s just got to battle through. I don’t know what to tell him except to keep pitching. To keep battling through. It’ll change. But also, today, that was a good pitching matchup. Their guy was good too. He was really good. They just happened to get some breaks there and put some runs together in that inning.”
The cards just haven’t fallen right for Hamels on the mound this season, but if it’s any consolation, Hamels says he’s been getting plenty of winning hands during card games on the road.
“I’ve been doing pretty well on the plane in poker,” he said. “At least they’re working there.”
The Phillies open a two-game series in Boston on Monday night. Rookie Tyler Cloyd (1-0, 2.70) will face Alfredo Aceves (1-1, 8.20), who gets the ball after Clay Bucholz was scratched (see story).