It happens to most pitchers over the course of a long season. Sometimes it feels as though they cant get the arm loose or maybe they rear back to fire a fastball past a hitter and the giddy-up isnt there. Its kind of like a car when it spins its wheels or a runner stuck in the mud.
Pitchers call it the dead arm start, which makes it sound bad or at least worse than the subpar digits posted during that particular start of the season. But really its nothing more than some in-season fatigue that comes from throwing a baseball nearly every day since the middle of February.
So for those looking for a reason why it took Hamels 88 pitches to throw five shaky innings, chalk it up to the dead-arm start. Dont look too much deeply into than that, says Hamels.
All told, the Phils lefty gave up three runs on six hits and a season-high four walks to fall to 13-7.
Its just one of those times in the year where youre traveling and pitching a lot of innings, things kind of amount and you just have to get through it, Hamels explained. If youre able to battle through it and things go well, you dont notice it and you keep on moving.
It makes sense considering Hamels is coming off a 2-1 complete-game victory over the defending World Series champs in San Francisco five days ago. Also mix in that between those starts that Hamels flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then from L.A. back to Philadelphia and its easy to see how a guy could get a little worn down.
Also consider that Hamels seems due for at least one clunker a month and there isnt much to be concerned about. With 25 starts and 172 innings already in the tank this season, Hamels is right there with co-aces Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in carrying the work load for the pitching staff.
The trouble with Fridays outing was that Hamels couldnt get his fastball going and mustered just two heaters at 90-mph. Without his fastball, Hamels best pitch, the changeup, isnt very effective.
It was just one of those things where I wasnt able to get loosened up, Hamels said. Its that time of the year where youre a little fatigued a little bit and battle through it and move on to the next game.
Besides, if there was one to have that dead-arm start in, why not in the first game back from a franchise-best 9-1 road trip?
Once I feel like I get my jump, it should be smooth sailing, Hamels said.
Actually, Hamels and the Phillies couldnt conjure up much in the way of offense against cagey veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez, who held the Phillies to one unearned run and four hits in 6 23 innings. With an array of changeups and slow curves, Hernandez tantalized the Phillies, allowing them to put runners in scoring position in only the second inning before a late spurt in the ninth where the team brought the tying run to the plate three times.
Thing is, Hernandez beat the Phillies with the bat, too, driving in runs on singles in the second and sixth innings. In doing so, Hernandez tied the Nationals single-season RBI record for a pitcher with seven, a record he set in 2005.
He is really good, Hamels said. I know I faced him a few times as a pinch hitter. You just have to make good pitches. He was able to find holes and won himself a ballgame because of it.
Take Hernandezs bat out of the equation and Hamels was able to wiggle out of some potential big-time trouble despite the lack of stuff. In the first inning the Nats had two on with one out and could not push a run across. They also got the leadoff hitter on base in four of the five innings against Hamels. In the fifth the Nationals had the bases loaded and no outs, but only scored one run on a weak ground out by Jayson Werth.
Regardless, by that point Hamels had given all he could.
He kept us to 3-1 and our offense had trouble getting to Hernandez tonight, manager Charlie Manuel said. We hit some balls hard, but at the same time it wasnt enough.
E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org