Friday, February 12, 2016

A team's frustration manifests in Cole Hamels

The last time Cole Hamels pitched with a lead was 44 days ago. Who can blame him for his frustration?

A team's frustration manifests in Cole Hamels

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

MIAMI — The last time Cole Hamels threw a pitch with his team winning was April 7. It was a crisp Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park; the wind gusted to center on a high 50s day. The season was six games old. In the fifth inning, Billy Butler smashed a 92 m.p.h. Hamels fastball to left for a grand slam. Hamels pitched to eight more batters that day, a 9-8 Phillies loss to Kansas City, and suffered his second loss of 2013.

That was the last time Cole Hamels pitched with a lead. That was 44 days ago.

His team won a game for him April 28 in New York by mounting a rally immediately after he departed. But that's it. He has seven losses, most in the majors. The Phillies are 1-9 when he pitches.

"Nope," Hamels said Monday when asked if he wanted to discuss his latest outing, a 10-strikeout performance shortened to six innings solely because the Phillies could not score for him.

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Is Cole Hamels’ 1-7 record deserved?
Yes. His ERA is 4.45.
No. The Phillies don’t support him.

Who could blame him?

The Phillies have scored 27 runs in Hamels' 10 starts. They have scored a total of 15 runs in his last eight starts. Hamels' ERA during that stretch is 3.12. His record is 1-5.

What can he say?

Hamels threw his fastball at an average velocity of 93.5 m.p.h. Monday. He threw 15 of his 20 change-ups for strikes, and nine of them were swinging. He did not walk a batter after walking seven in his previous two starts. Pitching coach Rich Dubee labeled Hamels' stuff as "electric."

What else can he do?

"It's very tough on me," outfielder Domonic Brown said. "And I'm pretty sure it's tough on everyone else, too. Ten strikeouts, no walks, and we only put up one run. We've just got to do a better job."

A team's frustration manifested in Hamels storming from the visiting clubhouse at Marlins Park without speaking to reporters. How could he answer the same questions again without saying something he regretted? How can Hamels be to blame for an offense that failed to hit a pitcher with a 5.00 ERA? How long can a pitcher maintain mental balance when he is always trailing?

How can this be any worse?

The most maddening development is this: The National League East stinks. It is the only division that possesses four teams with a negative run differential. And each of those four teams is minus-25 or worse.

The four worst OPSes in baseball reside in the NL East. They are, in order from most terrible to less: Miami (.601), Washington (.656), New York (.679), and Philadelphia (.682).

The Marlins have outscored the Phillies, 28-20, in eight games. The rest of baseball has outscored them by 61 runs in their other 37 games. That led to one of the more depressing Charlie Manuel rants in 2013.

"Sometimes teams have success against you," Manuel said. "And also they can handle different teams better than others. They have a young team. They scrap and they claw. They might not score a lot of runs, but at the same time they get their cuts in against us. Against us they score."

Against us they score. Will that appear on the epitaph of these Phillies?

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