Cole Hamels Is the First Pitcher in the NL to 10 Losses This Season

Cole Hamels Is the First Pitcher in the NL to 10 Losses This Season

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.

>> Hamels battles, but lifeless Phillies lose again [CSN]

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.