Hamels takes blame after Phillies' loss to Mets

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Hamels takes blame after Phillies' loss to Mets

BOX SCORE

Get Chase Utley back in the lineup and everything’s going to be OK, right?

No. Not by a long shot.

Utley’s return from the disabled list Friday night meant little to the Phillies, who lost for the ninth time in the last 13 games when Cole Hamels could not protect an early three-run lead in absorbing a 4-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

“This was a game I feel like we could have seized and I wasn’t able to take care of what I needed to take care of on the field,” Hamels said. “It’s my fault.”

Summer is officially here. This is about the time when everyone figured to be hearing about Hamels winning his 11th game and being on a collision course to start the All-Star Game.

Instead, Hamels has 11 losses. That’s not a typo. He leads the majors with 11 losses. He is the first Phillies pitcher since 1937 to have 11 losses before July 1.

Less than a year after signing the richest contract in Philadelphia sports history, Hamels could lose 20 games.

That’s mind-blowing.

The Phillies are 2-14 in the left-hander’s 16 starts and 35-39 on the season.

Frustration is growing in the clubhouse and the manager’s office.

Jonathan Papelbon aired some grievances after Wednesday night’s loss and manager Charlie Manuel threatened to knock out a reporter after Friday night’s loss. The reporter, Howard Eskin, pressed Manuel as to why the Phillies’ offense stinks. Manuel, who has heard the question over and over this season, finally heard enough and fired on him (see story).

It was about as much life as any Phillie showed after the second inning, when the Phils rallied for three runs against Jeremy Hefner, then went into their typical shutdown mode.

On some nights, in some seasons, those three runs might have been enough for Hamels. But not in the nightmare season of 2013.

Hamels breezed through the first three innings then allowed seven hits and four runs over the next three innings on his way to being bounced from the game. The Phillies’ offense, of course, couldn’t pick him up.

For the season, Hamels is 2-11 with a 4.50 ERA.

The Phillies have scored at least three runs behind Hamels eight times this season. His ERA is 6.36 in those games. His ERA is 2.87 when he gets two or fewer runs.

“He’s having a tough time,” Manuel said. “We’ve had some games where we don’t get him any runs. At the same time, he’s had games when he’s giving up some runs and gotten hit.

“Tonight, he wasn’t really sharp. I’ve seen him a lot better, of course.”

Three of the runs that Hamels gave up came with two outs. Eric Young Jr. tied the game at 3-3 when he laced a two-out, two-run single up the middle on a 2-2 fastball in the fifth. Juan Lagares put the Mets ahead with a two-out, RBI double in the sixth. The hit scored Lucas Duda, who had reached on a one-out walk.

“It’s just been a bad case of not being able to keep my team in games,” Hamels said of his season. “Ultimately, teams are getting runs here and there. I’m trying to prevent them, but it’s just not happening.

“It does get frustrating. I prepare to win. I strive to win. But ultimately I make the wrong pitch and it seems to break open the game for (the opposition).

“I’m not doing my part because I’m not preventing enough runs when we do get runs and that’s a frustrating process.”

Utley played behind Hamels in the World Series championship season of 2008 and Hamels’ 17-win season last year.

This is new.

In a bad way.

“I think we all know how hard he works,” Utley said. “He’s pitched better than his record indicates.”

While Hamels took the blame for loss, it wasn’t like everything was his fault. Three runs of support are better than two runs, but the offense wasn’t exactly robust.

“We left 10 men on base,” Manuel lamented. “We need to score runs and we didn’t do it.”

Utley went 0 for 5 in his return to the lineup.

“We had chances,” he said. “We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Aaron Nola has not had a great spring.

But in the big picture, well, maybe he has.

Nola was one of the Phillies' biggest and most important question marks coming into camp. He had missed the final two months of the 2016 season because of an elbow injury. All he needed to do this spring to be in the starting rotation was show that he was healthy.

He's done that.

He pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins and threw 82 pitches in his fifth start of the spring on Thursday. He gave up six hits, including a two-run homer, walked one and struck out six.

He's up to 17 2/3 innings for the spring -- without an elbow issue.

"I'm over that," Nola said after the game. "My elbow feels really good. I haven't had any pain or problems with it. I don't even think about it throwing or in games.

"Everything has been very positive. My body is healthy."

Nola, who lines up to fill the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation, hasn't had good results this spring. He has given up 19 hits and 13 earned runs. But, again, the Phillies were only looking for good health.

"He's been working on his changeup," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Today, he threw more changeups than I've ever seen him throw. The changeup he threw for the home run, he admitted, 'I would never throw that pitch in a game.' But he's working on it, trying to get it going for him, and I think it's going to be a good pitch for him. 

"He really pitched better than the result he got. He had a lot of work with his changeup, which is important. He was as sharp as we've seen him."

Coming into camp, Mackanin was concerned about Nola's health.

"I'm less concerned right now," the manager said. "It's always going to be in the back of my mind. But it's good to see 92, 93, 94 (mph) coming out of his hand, which is important. Once he regains that command, and he showed real good command of his fastball down in the zone today, he's going to be back to where he was -- with even maybe a little more velocity. We'll see. But the changeup is going to help him. I'm very encouraged."

The game
The Phillies lost, 4-2, to the Twins.

The Phils had 10 hits, two by Odubel Herrera, who homered.

Andrew Knapp, pushing to make the club, started behind the plate and had a double.

The Phillies were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The Phils' bullpen -- Sean Burnett, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris -- accounted for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Up next
The Phils play the Yankees in Tampa on Friday. Jeremy Hellickson will start against CC Sabathia.

Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel reflect on special bond with Dallas Green

Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel reflect on special bond with Dallas Green

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- An impromptu homage to Dallas Green broke out on the field at the Phillies' spring training home Thursday morning.

Larry Bowa, who played for Green on the 1980 World Series championship team, was there.

So was Charlie Manuel, the only other manager other than Green to lead a Phillies team to a World Series title.

They told tales of Green's tough exterior and warm heart.

Bowa even shed a tear.

A couple of hours later, there were a few more tears in the stands as the team honored Green with a moment of silence the day after he died at 82.

Green's old jersey, No. 46, hung in the dugout for the Phillies-Twins game.

"It was tough last night," Bowa said. "I just couldn't believe it. This guy meant the world to us. We don't win a World Series without Dallas. It doesn't matter if we've got 10 Pete Roses, we don't win a World Series without Dallas. 

"He taught me a lot about being mentally tough and giving everything you have, every pitch, nine innings. Never quit. He was a guy that told our team, 'Look in the mirror. You're not as good as you think you are.' He said, 'Anybody can win divisions, go win a World Series. Put a ring on somebody's finger.'"

The Phillies had great talent in the late 1970s but always came one step short of the World Series. Green came in late in the 1979 season and was a stun gun to a complacent team. A year later, they were World Series champions.

"He said, 'I don't care what you did yesterday. What can you do today to help the Phillies win?' He got everybody's attention," Bowa said. "Yeah, we had a lot of give and take, screaming. I think everybody respected him. That's the bottom line. Eventually, when you get done playing, you realize how important he was to the Phillies in 1980."

Bowa was a critic of Green's in the lead up to the World Series. He recalled the give and take with the manager, which wasn't always sugar and spice and everything nice.

After one particularly poor game, Green left his office door open as he spoke with reporters. During the interview session, Green loudly questioned the team's desire and said the group was not as good as it thought it was. The players in the clubhouse heard it all because Green wanted them to -- and, of course, because his voice naturally boomed.

After Green's session with the media that night, a reporter approached Bowa and asked if he'd heard Green's loud commentary.

Of course, Bowa had heard it.

And he was fired up.

"Go ask Dallas how many games he won in the big leagues," Bowa told the writer, poking at Green's modest 20-22 record as a big-league pitcher.

When the writer informed Green of Bowa's barb, Green responded with a loud, "Touche, Bo. Touche."

"He wanted you to hear things," Bowa said.

That was one of his ways of challenging people. And he really liked to challenge players. It was his way of inspiring and separating the weak from the strong.

Manuel compared that to one of his former managers, Billy Martin.

"He was like a Billy Martin kind of guy," Manuel said. "He'll tell you what he expects out of you, but at the same time, he'll tell you that you can't do something. That's a big challenge to you. When you show him that you can do it, that's when he's on your side and he thinks the world of you. That's the time you become his guy."

Manuel became Green's guy after the two had a public spat in 2006. In a radio interview, Green, then a member of the team's front office, had criticized the way Manuel's Phillies were playing. In particular, he said the team lacked fundamentals. Manuel was furious that a member of the front office would criticize him publicly. A month or so later, as the Phillies rallied themselves into wild-card contention, Manuel and Green came face to face on the field before a game at Citizens Bank Park.

Manuel unloaded on Green.

And Green took his medicine.

From that confrontation, respect and understanding grew. Manuel and Green became great friends and frequent dinner partners. A few years later, Green admitted to a reporter that he was wrong for scuffing Manuel and he thanked Manuel for showing him that there are other ways to run a team than just the way he did it.

"I showed him," Manuel said. "When I look back, maybe he was testing me. But I understood him and I think at the end he felt he understood me."

On the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, Manuel and Green, members of an elite, two-man club, sat in Manuel's office and reflected.

"He was very happy," Manuel said. "Him and I had a few drinks of VO. I think I outdrank him, really. But, of course, when he won back in 1980 he would have outdrank me.

"Everything about it was good. He was just as happy as I was and I can't tell you how happy I was.

"He was always around and he definitely pulled for the Phillies day in and day out.

"Baseball's going to miss Dallas Green.

"I'm going to miss him."