Collecting wins hasn’t been Cole Hamels' forte in 2013, whether or not it's been his fault.
On Thursday night against the Giants, it wasn’t.
The Phillies southpaw was stuck with a no-decision despite tossing eight scoreless innings and substantially helping his own cause by driving in the Phillies' only run of the game.
Hamels, now standing at 4-13 on the season, was in line for a win and handed over the ninth inning to Jonathan Papelbon with a 1-0 lead.
Five batters and four hits later, Papelbon blew his sixth save of the year and Hamels' fifth win of the season escaped him for his fourth consecutive start (see game recap).
“It's unfortunate. I think it's hard sometimes to dig yourself out of a hole. And as a team, we've just not been able to do it,” Hamels said. “We know how to win. We're capable of winning. But, you can't force the issue.”
Lacking run support isn’t foreign to the seven-year veteran. Entering start No. 23 on the year, Hamels ranked 84th out of 92 qualifying pitchers in average run support (3.38 runs per game).
Against the Giants, the Phils could muster just one run.
Hamels slapped a slicing drive down the right field line with two outs to score Laynce Nix and give the Phils a one-run lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel thought Hamels, both on the bump and in the batter’s box, had a solid performance.
“I feel like he had good stuff and had a real good game. When he got behind in the count, he made good pitches,” Manuel said. “He had a big hit in the fifth inning and I thought the run was going to hold up.”
Unfortunately for Hamels, he knew early that it wasn’t likely he’d see the game through to the end to make sure that one run held up.
His pitch count was rising fast and early (it took him 21 pitches to get through the first inning), and ended up at 113 -- the most he’s tossed since April 23.
“I just need to minimize the pitches in the beginning so I’m able to go deep,” Hames said. “That’s what Cliff and Doc work to ultimately do -- be able to finish the game.”
Hamels did go pretty deep considering his high pitch count. The lefty approached the mound in the top of the eighth with 105 pitches already under his belt.
Thursday was just the third time in Hamels’ last 16 starts that he completed more than seven innings.
Hamels’ ultimate takeaway was his connection with Carlos Ruiz from the first inning to the eighth, and their efforts helped the pitcher lower his season ERA below 4.00 (3.87).
Despite a rocky start to the season, Hamels now possesses a 2.06 ERA over his last six starts.
When asked whether or not he could empathize with opposing starter Matt Cain (7-6, 4.57 ERA), Hamels said he could, and regardless of the stats, hitters have to take an aggressive approach.
“You can't look at a guy, see a high ERA and think that he's terrible,” Hamels said. “You've got to be able to go out and hit whoever is pitching. If the guy has a 1.00 ERA or a 10.00 ERA or a 4.00, you've got to go out there and try to beat him.”