Their ace lefty pitched well enough to win against the Mets, but as usual the team didn’t support him at the plate

By Sam Bush

The Phillies can’t seem to win when Cole Hamels is pitching, and that is a big problem for a team which slid to a season-low six games under .500 Sunday with a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the New York Mets.

The Phillies are now 1-7 in Hamels’ outings even though he pitched seven innings for the fifth consecutive start Sunday, even though he gave up three runs or less in four of those starts and two runs or less three times.

Hamels (1-3 with four no-decisions) showed up big for the Phillies on Sunday, if not afterward when he no-showed the typical starting pitcher availability with the media without explanation.

After two straight 14-inning games, the Phillies needed a Herculean effort from their ace left-hander. He delivered, allowing two runs – one earned – in seven innings and blew away Chris Young with the 125th and final pitch of his afternoon for his eighth strikeout.

The Phillies have scored one or two runs in half of Hamels’ starts. Sunday’s was the fourth loss by one run in a game the lefty started.

If the Phillies are simply. 500 in Hamels’ starts, then they would be .500 overall and in second place in the underwhelming National League East instead of in last, six games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves.

A team needs to win 70 percent of an ace’s starts. The Phillies thought they had two aces in Hamels and Cliff Lee and a well-above-average No. 3 in A.J. Burnett when the season started.

Lee is currently on the disabled list with elbow soreness and there is no timetable for his return, so the Phillies need Hamels more than ever now.

“(Hamels) gives us the opportunity, no question about it and we came up short on the offensive side for him,” said manager Ryne Sandberg. “He pitched well enough to win today.”

He’s pitched well enough to win lately but hasn’t.

Hamels started the year on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis – ironically, Phillies’ affiliates also lost his three rehab starts – and struggled a little in his first few outings.

But beginning with a career-high 133-pitch effort in a 5-4, 11-inning loss in New York on May 11 – where the bullpen blew a 4-1, ninth-inning lead – Hamels has posted a 2.57 ERA, with the Phillies going 1-4 in those starts even though Hamels lost just one.

Hamels allowed a two-out RBI sixth-inning single to Giancarlo Stanton and a two-run homer in the seventh in what turned into a 4-3 loss in the bottom of the ninth in Miami. He walked a pair and gave up a three-run homer to Wilin Rosario in the seventh inning against Colorado, snapping a 1-1 deadlock in a 6-2 loss.

You could hang part of those defeats on Hamels even though his overall numbers were decent, but not Sunday. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins made a rare errant throw, leading to an unearned run in the sixth that tied the game at 2 after Ryan Howard’s two-run homer gave them the lead.

Phillippe Aumont came in for the 11th inning after he was recalled before the game following the two extra-inning affairs the night before and allowed a two-out, two-run bomb to Lucas Duda.

The Phillies could have used slugger Darin Ruf – who was sent down to accommodate Aumont’s arrival – more than the erratic right-hander, who walked .193-hitting Travis d’Arnaud with two outs before serving up a home run.

Hamels gave the Phillies and their depleted bullpen exactly what they needed.

Well, almost everything.

He didn’t get the win, and for the fading ballclub that is what they need from their ace more than anything.


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