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Old 08-08-2008, 02:05 PM   #1
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Default Cole's teammates are screwing him (and my fantasy team)

Posted on Fri, Aug. 8, 2008

Jim Salisbury: Cole Hamels didn't deserve to lose
By Jim Salisbury

Inquirer Baseball Columnist

Cole Hamels paused and tipped his cap to the largest crowd of the season as he reached the top step of the dugout in the seventh inning.
He should have screamed in frustration.

Not toward the fans who helped give the Phillies their - cha-ching - 37th sellout of the season. They didn't let Hamels down. But his teammates did. Again.

Hamels allowed just two earned runs and struck out seven over 6 1/3 innings. A performance like that should be good enough to win, especially when you pitch for an offensive powerhouse such as the Phillies.

Ah, but don't believe the hype. The stat sheet says the Phillies rank second in the National League in runs. That might make them a powerhouse by definition. But they're not one on the field. A powerhouse sets them up and knocks them down night after night. The Phillies' offense is maddeningly inconsistent, and the series that ended yesterday offered the latest example.

The Phils lost two of three to the Florida Marlins. They won the middle game, 5-0. They lost the opener, 8-2, and yesterday's finale, 3-0.

If the umpires had the luxury of using instant replay - probably coming to a ballpark near you next season - to decide disputed home-run calls, the Phils would have been shut out twice in the series. Shane Victorino's two-run home run Tuesday night was actually a foul ball. But what the heck. It'll look like a 420-foot bomb when his agent presents it at the arbitrator's table this winter.

"Hamels pitched a very good game," manager Charlie Manuel said after yesterday's loss, which reduced his team's lead in the NL East to 11/2 games over the Marlins and two over the Mets.

"Of course, we didn't score. And when you don't score, you're not going to win."

Manuel added, "We didn't play good."

It was a worthy footnote. The Phils didn't play well defensively. They gave the Marlins five outs in the seventh as Florida pushed across its third run.

Yesterday's whitewash marked the seventh time the Phils have been shut out this season. That's one more time than they were shut out the last two seasons combined. The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 30 times and three or fewer 45 times.

After this latest shutout, Jimmy Rollins described Marlins rookie righthander Chris Volstad as "definitely nothing special." Reality check: Volstad was special enough to hold the Phillies to three hits over six innings. He didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the fifth. Hamels had the hit. It was the second time in a six-game span that the lefthander broke up a no-hitter in the fifth.

Volstad, 21, was a first-round pick in 2005. The Phillies had never faced him. In this era of extensive scouting reports and video intelligence, being unfamiliar with a pitcher is a lame excuse. The Phillies' bats - 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and 10 men left on base - just didn't get it done. The lineup is without a .300 hitter, and the drop-off after the No. 5 spot is steep. It's all part of the recipe for the inconsistency that has prevented the Phils from taking off in a mediocre division.

Hamels did not pitch well in his previous two starts, taking a loss and a no-decision in a Phils' victory. But for the most part this season, he has been the top-of-the-rotation talent he's supposed to be, even if his record is 9-8.

Hamels has received weak run support in a number of starts. It all started April 2, when he pitched eight innings against Washington and lost, 1-0. He's been particularly star-crossed against the Marlins. On June 11, he allowed just two runs over eight innings in getting a no-decision in a 6-2 loss. On July 20, he allowed just two runs in eight innings in picking up a no-decision in a 3-2 loss.

Hamels has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts. He is 1-3 with three no-decisions. It has to make him want to scream in frustration.

"I have at times," he admitted. "People have heard some four-letter words."

It would be difficult to say that the lack of run support is a result of the hitters pressing behind Hamels. The offense has just been too inconsistent for too long to say that. Whatever the reason for it, measly run totals give a pitcher little margin for error, and if you listen to Hamels, it sounds like it's weighing on his mind. He admitted that the low run support does put extra pressure on him, and he confirmed that it is difficult to pitch that way.

"But you try not to dwell on it," he said.

That's a wise mind-set. Because there's too much season left, and Hamels is too important to let this consume him. He'll be back on the mound Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Brother, can you spare a run?

Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or
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