Get Chase Utley back in the lineup and everything’s going to be OK, right?
No. Not by a long shot.
Utley’s return from the disabled list Friday night meant little to the Phillies, who lost for the ninth time in the last 13 games when Cole Hamels could not protect an early three-run lead in absorbing a 4-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
“This was a game I feel like we could have seized and I wasn’t able to take care of what I needed to take care of on the field,” Hamels said. “It’s my fault.”
Summer is officially here. This is about the time when everyone figured to be hearing about Hamels winning his 11th game and being on a collision course to start the All-Star Game.
Instead, Hamels has 11 losses. That’s not a typo. He leads the majors with 11 losses. He is the first Phillies pitcher since 1937 to have 11 losses before July 1.
Less than a year after signing the richest contract in Philadelphia sports history, Hamels could lose 20 games.
The Phillies are 2-14 in the left-hander’s 16 starts and 35-39 on the season.
Frustration is growing in the clubhouse and the manager’s office.
Jonathan Papelbon aired some grievances after Wednesday night’s loss and manager Charlie Manuel threatened to knock out a reporter after Friday night’s loss. The reporter, Howard Eskin, pressed Manuel as to why the Phillies’ offense stinks. Manuel, who has heard the question over and over this season, finally heard enough and fired on him (see story).
It was about as much life as any Phillie showed after the second inning, when the Phils rallied for three runs against Jeremy Hefner, then went into their typical shutdown mode.
On some nights, in some seasons, those three runs might have been enough for Hamels. But not in the nightmare season of 2013.
Hamels breezed through the first three innings then allowed seven hits and four runs over the next three innings on his way to being bounced from the game. The Phillies’ offense, of course, couldn’t pick him up.
For the season, Hamels is 2-11 with a 4.50 ERA.
The Phillies have scored at least three runs behind Hamels eight times this season. His ERA is 6.36 in those games. His ERA is 2.87 when he gets two or fewer runs.
“He’s having a tough time,” Manuel said. “We’ve had some games where we don’t get him any runs. At the same time, he’s had games when he’s giving up some runs and gotten hit.
“Tonight, he wasn’t really sharp. I’ve seen him a lot better, of course.”
Three of the runs that Hamels gave up came with two outs. Eric Young Jr. tied the game at 3-3 when he laced a two-out, two-run single up the middle on a 2-2 fastball in the fifth. Juan Lagares put the Mets ahead with a two-out, RBI double in the sixth. The hit scored Lucas Duda, who had reached on a one-out walk.
“It’s just been a bad case of not being able to keep my team in games,” Hamels said of his season. “Ultimately, teams are getting runs here and there. I’m trying to prevent them, but it’s just not happening.
“It does get frustrating. I prepare to win. I strive to win. But ultimately I make the wrong pitch and it seems to break open the game for (the opposition).
“I’m not doing my part because I’m not preventing enough runs when we do get runs and that’s a frustrating process.”
Utley played behind Hamels in the World Series championship season of 2008 and Hamels’ 17-win season last year.
This is new.
In a bad way.
“I think we all know how hard he works,” Utley said. “He’s pitched better than his record indicates.”
While Hamels took the blame for loss, it wasn’t like everything was his fault. Three runs of support are better than two runs, but the offense wasn’t exactly robust.
“We left 10 men on base,” Manuel lamented. “We need to score runs and we didn’t do it.”
Utley went 0 for 5 in his return to the lineup.
“We had chances,” he said. “We just couldn’t capitalize.”