LOS ANGELES - This was the debut stage for the lanky lefthander they called "Hollywood" before he even reached the majors, and it was appropriate. Five seasons somehow passed since Cole Hamels' last appearance at Dodger Stadium. The Phillies unveiled their keystone here Wednesday, with another star pitcher, Zack Greinke, opposing him.
When Hamels re-signed for $144 million in July 2012, the affluent Dodgers opened their wallet and paid $159 million for Greinke. They did not sign him for his bat, which earned a silver slugger award in 2013, and tormented the Phillies.
A 5-2 Dodgers victory spawned in the fifth inning with Greinke at the plate and Hamels on the mound. Greinke took five pitches to earn a two-out walk, the first Hamels issued to an opposing pitcher since June 19, 2012. The electric Yasiel Puig jumped Hamels' first pitch, a fastball, and rocketed it into left for a go-ahead single. The Dodgers never trailed again.
"You can never walk the pitcher," Hamels said. "And that decided the ballgame. It set up what transpired over the next inning and it racked up the pitch count."
Those extra fifth-inning pitches pushed Hamels to 86 through six innings. That, Ryne Sandberg decided, was enough. "First time out," Sandberg said, "he did his job right there." He deployed Jeff Manship, Mario Hollands and Shawn Camp. Los Angeles added three insurance runs on six hits.
The Phillies said there were no restrictions from Hamels in his return from biceps tendinitis. Hamels was puzzled by Sandberg's decision.
"I had plenty in the tank," Hamels said. "It was [surprising]. I don't make the decisions."
Did Hamels lobby for another inning?
"Yeah," he said, "I guess as much as I'm allowed to." He added: "I was able to go up to 100, 105. But that's their decision and I have to abide by it."
Greinke won the $303 million pitching duel. He struck out 11 in seven innings and departed when Jayson Nix barreled his 108th pitch — and first of the eighth inning — into the left-field bleachers. Los Angeles added three insurance runs after Hamels' removal. They rolled.
It marked Hamels' longest season-debut start since 2008, when he pitched eight innings in a 1-0 loss to Washington. His best work came in the sixth after Hanley Ramirez started the inning with a double to left. Matt Kemp hit a fly ball deep to center that permitted Ramirez to advance to third. He never moved from there: Scott Van Slyke and Juan Uribe both grounded out.
But the fifth inning is what would bother Hamels. He fanned Uribe and Justin Turner for the first two outs. Drew Butera, Los Angeles' backup catcher and a career .180 hitter, slapped a 93-m.p.h. fastball to right for an opposite-field single. Greinke, who led all pitchers with seven walks in 2013, never swung the bat but prolonged the inning for Puig.
The Phillies entered Wednesday with the second-worst bullpen ERA in baseball. They ended the night with the worst at 5.64. Manship, a 29-year-old righty who lacks experience as a reliever in important situations, stumbled in the seventh. Greinke struck again with a two-out double. Puig blasted a hanging Manship curveball deep to right. Marlon Byrd overran the ball; it landed as a triple and plated another Dodgers run.
Hollands, a rookie lefthander, was forced to face the righthanded heart of Los Angeles' lineup in the eighth. Ramirez homered on a 3-1 fastball. Van Slyke doubled on a 1-2 slider. Camp, 38, entered for his Phillies debut and permitted back-to-back singles. Another close game devolved when the Phillies bullpen pitched.
"Everyone has their job and they all need to be used," Sandberg said. "There's different situations to use different guys so it's important for guys to step up."
For six innings, Hamels provided encouragement. He fired his first pitch, a 90-m.p.h. fastball, at 7:20 p.m. local time. The lefthander never labored until the fifth. He threw 15 pitches in the first, 12 in the second, 10 in the third, and 11 in the fourth. The Dodgers' strategy was to attack with haste; they scored a second-inning run on seven pitches thrown to three hitters.
Ryan Howard tied the game in the fourth with an opposite-field single that scored Jimmy Rollins, who doubled. That was the closest the Phillies came, and it only worsened when Hamels exited.