16 runs of support in eight starts for Cole Hamels clearly isn't going to cut it. So the first words on the Phillies $144 million man's ninth start today against the Indians at 1:05 p.m., absolutely need to be that the lineup needs to start producing for him. Like, now.
That said, Hamels flimsy run support isn't just a Hamels thing. It's a top ace thing.
So between his pay grade and room for error (which is at this point is tiny), Hamels needs to shore up the part of his game that's actually awry, and uncharacteristically so: his command.
Twice this year Hamels has walked five or more batters in a single start, both of those in his last three starts, a span in which he's issued 11 freebies in 20 innings. He entered 2013 with only four such starts... in seven years.
That is very, categorically un-Hamels. His 3.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2010-12 was fourth-best in the game. Nos. 1 and 2? Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Cole has never dipped below 3.02 for a full big league season. Yet through six weeks, Hamels' K/BB is a horrid 1.95, which falls 78th of 106 qualifying starters.
Of course, Hamels' dearth of Ks mints the other side of that coin. His 7.49 strikeouts per nine innings pace is the tiniest of his career, down 1.50 from last year. He's topped seven strikeouts only twice so far. Through eight starts last year, he gassed seven or more five times. Today would be a good time to rediscover that.
Twice in a row Charlie Manuel has had to concede that his No. 1 starter was outdueled by someone the Phillies hadn't seen before this year. Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.64 ERA) isn't likely to make it 3 for 3. The 27-year-old righthander has lasted five innings or more only twice in five starts. In his latest two, he's been tagged for 11 runs off 16 hits and three homers in 10 1/3 innings.
That would figure to bode well for, well, everybody.
Ryan Howard is mired in a 2 for 22 slump in his last six games. Delmon Young and Carlos Ruiz have as many strikeouts (17) as hits in 80 combined at-bats. Chase Utley is back in the lineup after sitting yesterday, and has been on a tear. He’s hitting .379 in his last 29 at-bats over his last seven games.
Though the biggest contributor here may be Hamels' command.
Get it back, and his Phillies are but a lock for their first four-game win streak this year.
Don't, and he's leaving himself and the team vulnerable to this lineup's whims.
An early 1:05 Business Persons Special from South Philadelphia.
Lineup vs. CLE. twitter.com/ToddZolecki/st…
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) May 15, 2013