Bullpen blows lead in ninth as Phillies fall to Mets in 11 innings
NEW YORK - Cole Hamels had thrown more pitches yesterday afternoon than he had in any of the 248 big-league games that preceded it. He struggled with command, but he combatted a rising pitch count with sheer talent and perseverance.
He put six straight zeroes onto the scoreboard after allowing a single run in the first inning and, when his work was over following 133 pitches, the most any major league pitcher has thrown this season, Hamels retired to the clubhouse for his poststart workout.
He left the game with a two-run lead, which grew to three runs before the bottom of the ninth inning. He watched. He waited.
"I can only do so much," Hamels said. "I trust my teammates to go out there and do the job. Obviously, sometimes it doesn't happen."
Hamels bounced back from back-to-back poor starts with a gutsy effort against the Mets, putting the Phillies in prime position to sweep their National League East foes. But then he and the 28,926 patrons at Citi Field on a Mother's Day afternoon watched the latest bullpen implosion.
Antonio Bastardo retired just one of the four batters he faced as the Mets rallied back to beat the Phillies, 5-4, in 11 innings.
"When you miss in the strike zone, and you miss up, that's what's going to happen," said Bastardo, who served up a double and a home run to the first two batters he faced.
Ruben Tejada finished the Mets' comeback win against the Phillies' pen in the 11th with a one-out RBI single to leftfield off Jeff Manship.
Bastardo, who also blew a save on Friday in a game that would need extra innings, has allowed at least one run in each of his last three appearances. He allowed three runs on three hits.
Bastardo was handed the closer's role in the series finale because Jonathan Papelbon (soreness) was one of three relievers unavailable. Jake Diekman and Mike Adams were also out after enduring a lot of work in the previous two games.
"It was in my hands," Bastardo said. "I let it go because I [bleeping] missed a pitch, you know."
Bastardo, who said he has been battling command issues all season, gave up a double on an 0-2 slider to the final batter he faced, Chris Young. The two-run homer from Daniel Murphy came on a 3-1 pitch.
"His slider was a little flat," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It was staying over the plate and they were just on him today."
The Phillies have eight blown saves in the season's first 36 games. Only one team in baseball (Pittsburgh, with nine) had more entering play yesterday.
Bastardo also blew Hamels' chance at returning to Philadelphia with his 100th career win.
Hamels took the mound in his seventh and final inning with a 3-1 lead and having thrown 111 pitches. It looked like he was nearing the end of the line when Hamels gave up a booming double to the inning's second batter, Murphy.
But with the aforementioned short bullpen, Hamels remained on the mound. With a two-run lead and David Wright at the plate, Sandberg stuck with his starter.
Wright worked the count full. But after fouling off a pitch, the Mets' best hitter returned to the dugout after Hamels painted the outside corner with a 90 mph fastball.
The strikeout pitch was the 129th Hamels had thrown, breaking his career high. Hamels would need four more pitches before his work was deemed done.
"Physically, I feel really good," Hamels said, although he was unhappy his own lack of command led to a high-pitch count early. "I'm comfortable and confident that what I'm able to go out and do, the work I've put in between starts, are where it needs to be. Just seeing the results that have gone on for the past couple of games, even this game, just too many balls. I'm not getting ahead of hitters early. That's what's making things pretty tough."
It was a remarkable effort from Hamels, who needed 79 pitches to get through the game's first four innings. But it was all for naught, as Bastardo couldn't convert the game's final three outs.
"We were a little short in the bullpen today," said Sandberg, who had to turn to Friday's starter, Roberto Hernandez, to relieve Bastardo in the ninth. "Cole did a great job with his pitches. In a perfect world, we had three lefthanded pitchers lined up with [Mario] Hollands [who pitched the eighth] and Bastardo in a plus situation."
The Phils were riding a four-game losing streak entering the series after the Blue Jays outscored them by 20 runs. They were shut out in two of the losses and gave up a total of 18 runs in the other two defeats.
Following a closed-door meeting summoned by their manager, the Phillies responded against the Mets. And Hamels, 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in his first three starts of the season, attempted to keep the good tidings rolling with a workmanlike effort yesterday.
But then the worrisome bullpen behind him continued to be an inconsistent, undependable mess.
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21