He hasn’t been as sharp in 2013 as we’ve come to expect, but Cole Hamels is pitching well enough to keep the Phillies in games. Sunday at Colorado was the 11th time in 15 starts this season where Hamels held the opponent to three earned runs or less. His line: three runs off of six hits through seven innings. That’s pretty good.
The Phils couldn’t muster any runs of their own until the ninth inning though, and by then the bullpen already came along and did their job, which apparently is to make things worse. The Rockies outlasted the Fightins by a final of 5-2, pushing Hamels’ record to 2-10, and the team’s record in his starts to 2-13. That’s very bad.
10 losses leads the National League – by two in fact – and ties him with Joe Blanton for most in the Majors. Hamels is on pace to become to the first 20-game loser in all of baseball since Mike Maroth for Detroit in 2003, and first in the NL since Phil Niekro for Atlanta in 1979.
Sad as it is to say, this is not altogether unfamiliar territory in the clubhouse, as Cliff Lee went through similar difficulties last year when it took him until July to secure his first win. Hamels has dealt with the lack of offense before as well. As recently as 2011, the Phillies produced three runs or less in 20 of his 31 starts – he still managed to go 14-9.
Maybe the two of them could form a support group for starting pitchers who deserve better support groups. Hamels tried talking it out with reporters after the game.
“This year I don’t think we have the excuses we had last year,” he said. “We have to be accountable for what we’re doing, the way we’re playing, what’s going on. I’m not happy about it. The reason I want to be here is I want to win. I know I had a few bad games early on, but ultimately, I’m going out there to win, to go to the postseason, to go to the World Series. I know there are a few guys out here who have the same belief.”
It’s probably unlikely Hamels will actually get to 20 losses, because he’s simply too good. Admittedly he has not looked like the player the franchise signed to a $144-million extension last summer, but his luck has to turn around eventually. The team’s luck, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.
Hamels reaching double digits in losses is only part of the backdrop to an even more depressing story in which the Phils just completed a 10-game road trip where they went 3-7, including a five game losing streak. They are now 8.5 back of the Braves for first place in the NL East – as far behind as they’ve been all season – and an equal number out of a wild card.
Today is June 17. The trade deadline is on July 31. It’s no secret what kind of decisions will be facing the front office if the Fightins don’t make some progress in either one of those races soon.
When the team comes home from a road trip 3-7, and the winning percentage in games pitched by the staff ace falls to .133, even optimists find it increasingly difficult to figure out a way that's going to be possible.