Angry exit: Hamels clearly peeved after latest loss

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Angry exit: Hamels clearly peeved after latest loss

BOX SCORE

MIAMI – The frustration has finally caught up with Cole Hamels.

No other conclusion could be drawn after the pitcher made an angry beeline out of the visiting clubhouse after suffering his seventh loss of the season in a game in which he pitched very well Monday night.

“Nope,” Hamels told reporters as he stomped toward the door after the lowly Miami Marlins beat the Phillies, 5-1 (see Instant Replay).

Hamels had a right to be ticked off.

He struck out 10 batters and walked none in six innings of two-run ball. Why only six innings? Because manager Charlie Manuel, desperate for a run, any run, had to lift Hamels at 89 pitches for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. The move failed to produce the tying run, which was not surprising because the Phillies seldom score when Hamels pitches.

“Ten Ks and no walks and we only put up one run,” said Domonic Brown. “That’s very tough on me and I’m pretty sure it’s tough on everyone else in here. We’ve just got to do a better job.”

The Phils have scored just 20 runs in the 62 2/3 innings that Hamels has pitched this season. In Hamels’ last eight starts, the Phils have scored just 13 runs while he has been in the game.

This has left Hamels with a 1-7 record. The Phillies are 1-9 in his 10 starts.

Now, Hamels has to take some of the blame for that record. He’s had a few poor starts this season. But this wasn’t one of them. He had his best fastball of the season. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Hamels was “electric.”

In the absence of the pitcher, Dubee was asked about Hamels’ apparent frustration. Interestingly, Dubee said Hamels had been experiencing some frustration but the pitching coach said he did not see any Monday night.

“Actually this was a nice breakthrough for him,” Dubee said. “His stuff was electric tonight. He was 93 to 95.

“He’d been a little tense [in previous starts]. There’s a lot of things going on. He’s an accountable guy. He’s got the new contract. Roy [Halladay] going down. That puts a little burden on him. Not winning games. It’s weighed on him. But I thought tonight he was exceptional.”

Dubee said he did not know why Hamels would not speak with reporters after the game, but he did allude to the run-support issue when he mentioned that “tight games” had weighed on Hamels.

“Again, I think today was a big breakthrough,” Dubee said. “I think you saw electric stuff. I think it got to the point where instead of pitching away from bats and worrying about not getting runs, he got back into the mode of attacking hitters. No walks, one three-ball count. That’s Cole Hamels’ style.”

Moments before Hamels left the clubhouse in a huff, Manuel said he was concerned about the pitcher’s mindset in the wake of mounting losses and little run support.

“Yeah, I’m worried about that,” Manuel said. “I think Cole expects to be the big pitcher on our team and he expects to win and it’s hard not to get upset when you … He pitched good tonight. But at the same time, he needs some runs.

“He needs to pitch with a lead some time and have room to breathe and room if he makes a mistake. Yeah, that’s a concern of mine. I don’t know what we’re going to do about it.”

Facing the worst team and the worst offense in the National League, Hamels allowed single runs in the first and sixth innings.

That was two too many with Alex Sanabia (3-6) tying up the Phillies’ bats like so many pitchers before him.

The Phils got one run back on Brown’s solo homer in the second inning, but that was it for the night. Adding insult to injury, Chad Qualls, the man who contributed to a number of blown Phillies’ leads last year, got the final three outs for the Marlins.

The Phillies (21-24) have been held to two or fewer runs in 18 of 45 games -- 40 percent of their schedule.

Chances of a breakout Tuesday night are not good as the Phils will face right-hander Jose Fernandez. In two starts against the Phils this season, Fernandez has pitched 13 shutout innings and allowed just three hits. He has registered 14 strikeouts and walked just three.

“It’s May,” Brown said. “Time to get going. It has to start tomorrow. That’s a tough guy we’re facing. We’ve got to hit some balls hard.”

The Marlins have the NL’s worst record at 13-32. Four of their wins have come against the Phillies.

“Against us they score,” Manuel lamented.

Nick Pivetta continues strong finish to season in Phillies' win over Braves

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Nick Pivetta continues strong finish to season in Phillies' win over Braves

ATLANTA -- The Phillies and Atlanta Braves are both rebuilding teams that have looked to acquire as much pitching as possible over the last few seasons.

The Phillies added Nick Pivetta in the trade that sent Jonathan Papelbon to Washington two years ago. The Braves picked up Luiz Gohara from Seattle back in January.

If both pitchers continue to develop, there's a chance they could face each other in a National League division race someday. 

On Sunday, they squared off in a battle of teams playing out the string, but the intensity of the matchup was good. That can happen in the penultimate weekend of the season. After all, impressions can be made right up until the final pitch of the season. Players are always auditioning, especially rookies hoping to win spots next season.

Pivetta, 24, made a very nice showing. He out-pitched Gohara in helping the Phillies salvage one game of the three-game series against the Braves with a 2-0 win (see observations).

Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr keyed a just-enough Phillies' offense with a solo homer and an RBI double and the bullpen triumvirate of Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris combined for three scoreless innings to seal the shutout.

Pivetta pitched six shutout innings, walked one and struck out four. He gave up five hits. It's been an up-and-down season for the rookie right-hander. There's been a lot of on-the-job training and a few bruisings. He is 7-10 with a 6.26 ERA in 25 starts. He has allowed just two runs in 12 innings over his last two starts, so he's finishing the season on a high note.

"The key to his outing today was that he was throwing all his pitches for strikes," manager Pete Mackanin said. "His breaking ball and his changeup, he really did a good job with them, throwing them ahead in the count and behind in the count, so that was key.

"This is the place to learn. You can have a lot of success in the minor leagues but when you get up here it's a different animal. The best place to learn is at the big-league level and take your lumps and learn from them. Now, if you have too many guys like that you don’t win a lot of games, so you can afford to have one or maybe two guys in the rotation that are feeling their way through it, but not more than that."

Forced to the majors by injuries in the rotation early in the season, Pivetta has often talked about the learning experience his first year in the majors has been.

He was happy to talk about getting a victory on Sunday.

"It's been nice," he said. "I've settled down a little the last two starts. Today, I just tried to do the right things -- get ahead of hitters. And the guys played great defense behind me.

"Even when I had runners on base, I was able to attack the hitters the way I wanted and I didn't put too much pressure on myself."

That's not always easy for a rookie pitcher in a close game. Pivetta's ability to stay cool and pitch around base runners in the fifth and sixth innings was a sign of his improvement. He will have one more start before the season ends and is looking to build on two good ones and go into the offseason with a healthy dose of confidence. He will be a candidate for a spot in the rotation next spring.

Sunday's victory left the Phillies at 62-94. They need to win one of their final six games to avoid 100 losses. That once seemed to be a certainty, but they have played well since the All-Star break, recording a 33-36 record since then. They were 29-58 before the break.

Young players such as Nick Williams and Rhys Hoskins have come up from the minors and given the Phils a lift in recent weeks. The bullpen has also improved with Ramos, Morgan, Neris and Luis Garcia (before Saturday night) pitching well. Morgan pitched a scoreless eighth inning Sunday. He has allowed just two runs over his last 24 innings. That covers 18 appearances since Aug. 2. Neris is 18 for 18 in saves opportunities since June 28.

The only run that the Phils scored against Gohara came in the fifth when Franco smacked a first-pitch changeup into the left field seats for his 21st homer. The pitch was on the middle-half of the plate, Franco's happy zone.

Franco is hitting .308 with three homers and seven RBIs since J.P. Crawford came up and applied a little competitive heat.

Franco said that's coincidence, that he's focused only on what he needs to do to get better.

"I think when those young guys come up it always creates an energy spurt in everybody," Mackanin said. "For whatever reason, if Maikel is having a good September, I hope it carries through for five or six months next year. One month does not a good year make. Hopefully he'll have a better approach and he's going to be more successful."

Phillies-Braves observations: Maikel Franco homers, Nick Pivetta tosses gem in final road game

Phillies-Braves observations: Maikel Franco homers, Nick Pivetta tosses gem in final road game

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Phillies rookie Nick Pivetta outpitched Atlanta Braves rookie Luiz Gohara Sunday afternoon as the Phils salvaged the final game of a three-game series with a 2-0 win at steamy SunTrust Park.
 
Maikel Franco smacked his 21st homer and Aaron Altherr had an RBI double for the Phillies' two runs.
 
Pivetta (7-10) pitched six shutout innings and the bullpen did the rest.
 
The Phillies ended up with a 13-6 record against Atlanta this season, their best against any team.
 
• Pivetta has mostly struggled in 25 starts in his rookie season, but he's also had some very nice outings where his potential has really shined. This was one of them. His last start, in which he gave up two runs in six innings against the Dodgers, was a good one, too. So the right-hander seems to be finishing on a high note. He will have one more start before the end of the season. In a perfect world, Pivetta would have gotten more time at Triple A this season, but there was a need in the majors. Ultimately, he should benefit from his baptism by fire.
 
• Atlanta lefty Gohara was very good in his fourth big-league start. The 21-year-old from Brazil gave up just five hits, walked two and struck out nine. The only run he gave up came on Franco's homer.
 
• Pivetta did a good job pitching around trouble. He got two outs in the second inning after an error by Franco put a runner on second. He also pitched around sloppy infield play in the fifth. In the sixth, Pivetta knocked down a ball back to the box but was unable to start a double play. He stayed calm and got two outs to get out of the inning.
 
• The Phillies took a 1-0 lead on a solo homer by Franco in the top of the fifth. Franco turned on a first-pitch changeup from Gohara. The pitch was on the inside half of the plate — right in Franco's happy zone. Franco pulls off pitches away in the zone, but he kills mistakes inside. Franco will work on this flaw in winter ball this season (see story).
 
• Altherr doubled home an important insurance run for the Phillies in the eighth inning. Altherr has 61 RBIs on the season and 27 have come in the seventh inning or later.
 
• Good job by the Phillies' bullpen. Edubray Ramos and Adam Morgan pitched scoreless ball in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Morgan has allowed just two runs over his last 24 innings. That covers 18 appearances since Aug. 2. Hector Neris survived two hits in the ninth and picked up the save. He is perfect on is last 18 chances since June 28.

• The Phillies' first two hits of the game were singles to right field and both runners, Cesar Hernandez and Jorge Alfaro, were out trying to stretch at second base. Braves rightfielder Nick Markakis made two perfect throws. Hernandez needed to come out of the box quicker.
 
• The Phillies have a 35-40 record at home. They will play their final six games of the season at home beginning Monday night with the opener of a three-game series against the NL East champion Washington Nationals. Aaron Nola (12-10, 3.56) pitches against right-hander A.J. Cole (2-5, 4.43) on Monday night. Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.14) opposes lefty Gio Gonzalez (15-7, 2.68) on Tuesday night. Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.69) and right-hander Tanner Roark (13-10, 4.41) close out the series Wednesday night. The Phillies need to win one of their final six games to avoid 100 losses.