Cole Hamels Needs Better Command Today vs. Indians

Cole Hamels Needs Better Command Today vs. Indians

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.

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

There are good penalties. And bad penalties. And penalties which aren’t even penalties.

The last one would perfectly describe Radko Gudas’ hip check on Miles Wood that was whistled as clipping by referee Dan O’Halloran in the second period.

Even Wood was laughing as Gudas went to the box, realizing what a break he had gotten – a power play for nothing.

“He’s a pretty quick D-man,” Wood said. “I don’t think it should have been a call, but it was a good hit by him.”

That gave the Devils a power play. Then, when Wayne Simmond argued the call with O'Halloran, Simmonds drew two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The resulting 5-on-3 New Jersey power play saw the Devils score to break a 1-1 tie.

Minutes later, the Flyers had a bad line change and it was 3-1. Game over. The Devils would go on to win, 4-1 (see game story).

Bottom line? The Gudas call changed everything.

“I was really surprised,” Gudas said. “I didn’t think it was a penalty at all.”

Is this oversimplifying the game to say everything changed with that one call?

“Are we really simplifying it?” Gudas asked. “I think that after those calls we have to get together as a group and make sure we kill these off. Unfortunately, we let them score on that power play. It was just unlucky.”

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol called it “an excellent hit” by Gudas. He wouldn’t go deeper than that.

The six muffed power plays gave him enough reason to believe the Flyers could have gotten back in it. His Flyers are 3-9-3 since winning 10 games.

You can’t underestimate how those two calls turned the tables on the Flyers in this game.

“Everyone has their own opinion on the hit and we were obviously frustrated on the hit,” Travis Konecny said. “We thought it was a clean hit and we reacted to it. We have everyone’s backs.

“We have all had the one’s where we are angry with the ref and the one who made a hit like that. There is a time for that moment there.”

Goalie Michal Neuvirth thought it was a difference maker.

“Oh, absolutely, we were playing better in the second period,” he said. “I thought we had a momentum. You know stuff like that 5-on-3 for two minutes, it’s tough to defend.

“I think it’s taking way too many penalties lately and you got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).