PHOENIX — Charlie Manuel, now the longest-tenured manager in Phillies history, best described his 1,332d game in three succinct sentences.
"It's disappointing that Cole can hold a team to two runs and not win the game," Manuel said. "That's tough for us. We need to win some of his games."
Cole Hamels debuted in 2006 and Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Diamondbacks was just the latest example of a feeling he knows too well. Hamels has lost 20 starts in which he pitched at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs. That is the most in baseball during that span.
The Phillies are 1-7 when their $144 million ace starts a game in 2013. They were 21-10 when he pitched in 2012; 19-13 in 2011. Hamels has a 2.41 ERA in his last six starts, which have lasted an average of seven innings. The Phillies have scored 10 runs in those six games.
It bears an eerie resemblance to Hamels' 2011 season and Cliff Lee's 2012 run-support nightmare. One pitcher is cursed with being the guy who churns quality outing after quality outing with little to show beyond individual accomplishments.
Hamels is left repeating platitudes.
"I have to correct what I can correct," he said, "and that’s what’s going to allow me to be a better player and especially a better pitcher and go help the team so we can get some wins."
But a closer inquiry to Hamels' control problems — his 3.8 walks per nine ratio is the highest of his career — suggest the lack of run support has crept into his mind.
"I ultimately put a little too much pressure on making the right pitch, the most perfect pitch that I can," Hamels said. "I don't need to do that; I just need to throw strikes. There's a plate there and I'm capable of throwing strikes. I don't have to place it too fine. That's where I got myself. I'm trying to make too fine of a pitch and the room for error is that much more."
Factor in Hamels' first two starts and his team has scored an average of 2.9 runs per game when he pitches. (There are 12 National League pitchers with worse support, which is an indication of how early it still is.) In 2011, the Phillies scored an average of 3.9 runs per game started by Hamels. Lee received 3.5 runs of support per start last season.
The Phillies have scored two or fewer runs in four of Hamels' eight starts. In 2011, Doug Fister's offense scored two or fewer runs in 20 of his 31 starts. That is the most for any pitcher since 2000. (The Phillies did it 16 times for Hamels in 2011 and 11 times for Lee in 2012.)
What is there to say?
"We didn't get the job done," Manuel said.
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