NEW YORK -- Perspiration and a lack of patience were the Phillies’ two big enemies in a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field on Saturday afternoon.
Pitching in searing 94-degree heat and drenching humidity, Cole Hamels had trouble gripping the ball as he squandered a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Hamels allowed three runs in the inning and lost for the 12th time this season (see Instant Replay).
As for the patience part of the Phillies’ losing equation, that came from Domonic Brown and manager Charlie Manuel’s decision to let the All-Star leftfielder hit away with a 3-0 count in a one-run game in the fifth inning.
Brown ended up popping out to left field on a pitch that he admitted he should not have swung at.
The Phillies made it exciting in the top of the ninth when Michael Young reached base on a two-out error and Chase Utley homered off Mets closer Bobby Parnell to make it a one-run game. Brown then doubled but died on second when Darin Ruf lined out to second to end it.
In the end, the Phillies couldn’t recover from Hamels’ poor start, a couple of poor at-bats in the fifth inning and reliever J.C. Ramirez’ leadoff walk to the No. 8 hitter in the bottom of the seventh. The Mets ultimately turned the walk into their fifth run.
The long, hot and unfulfilling day left the Phillies at 49-49 as they failed to get to two games over .500 for the first time this season.
Their three-game winning streak is over and it gets no easier as they must face fireballer Matt Harvey, the National League’s starter in the All-Star Game, in the series finale Sunday afternoon.
“We have a pretty good guy going, too,” Manuel said of Cliff Lee, also an NL all-star.
Lee needs to come up bigger than Hamels did, because the Phillies, teetering on the buy/sell bubble 11 days before the non-waiver trade deadline, need to keep winning series -- they’ve won four in a row -- if they are to stick around in the race and convince management not to sell. As of right now, management has offered no concrete evidence -- i.e., a difference-making addition -- that it believes this can be a playoff team.
Hamels threw 35 pitches and allowed two walks, three hits and three runs in the first inning. The left-hander, who had walked just one batter over 23 innings in his previous three starts, did not make any excuses for the poor inning, but it was clear that a sweat-drenched hand prevented him from gripping the ball well. Throughout the inning, he wiped his hand on any piece of dry uniform he could find. He did not use the rosin bag.
“Rosin is kind of bad for me,” he said. “It makes my hand really sticky and therefore you start bouncing a lot of changeups.”
Hamels said his inability to consistently throw strike one was more of a problem than perspiration on his hand.
“Everything’s not going to be perfect,” he said. “You have to be able to make adjustments as opposed to throwing ball after ball. That’s what hurt me in the first inning.”
The Phillies are 6-15 in Hamels’ 21 starts.
That has been crippling to this team.
Still, despite Hamels’ tough first inning, the Phils had chances to run down Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who had his own command issues and threw 106 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.
Wheeler took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth and allowed three straight baserunners (two singles and a walk) to load the bases. Chase Utley pushed across a run with a sacrifice fly. A tiring Wheeler then fell behind Brown with three quick balls. With two men on base and his top RBI man up, Manuel gave Brown the green light. That calls for Brown to get the perfect pitch. He did not.
“I don’t know if it was out of the zone, but it definitely wasn’t a pitch I want to swing at 3-0,” Brown said. “I was looking for something middle-in and he threw it away. I tried to take it, but by that time my swing was already through. I should have taken the pitch and let Ruf drive us in.”
Brown’s pop up against Wheeler was the second out of the inning. Wheeler then walked Ruf and reliever Gonzalez Germen came on to strike out Delmon Young with the bases loaded.
Manuel defended his decision to let Brown hit away.
“He has 24 homers and 69 RBIs,” Manuel said. “I feel like right now he’s the guy who knocks in runs. It looked like the ball was up a bit. He skied it to left. Ruf walked and then Delmon might have had his worst at-bat of the day. We had more chances than that, really.”
Yes, the Phillies did.
But they did not cash in.
Ruf’s line-out to end the game dropped them to 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position for the game.
And now they have to face Matt Harvey, who is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in four career starts against the Phils.