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.

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.