By Sam Bush

Thank God it’s over.

The 2014 Phillies season, which got off to a rocky start on March 31 and was characterized by some of the most miserable baseball seen in Philly since they lost 23 straight games in 1961, finally ended Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

And, in fitting fashion, the Phils wasted another fine pitching performance by Cole Hamels (9-9), in a 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves that concluded Philly’s first last-place season since 2000.

“Cole was outstanding,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He basically threw a no-hitter at them for seven innings (after the first). We just came up short on the offensive side of things.”

The Phillies ace had the fifth-lowest ERA in the National League this season (2.46) and yet he mustered only nine wins in 30 starts.

“It’s tough,” Hamels said. “That was never the plan. You have to keep putting everything on the backburner and look ahead to your next start and hope things will turn around. Now I have to hope everything will turn around next year.”

This time, Hamels wasn’t outdueled by another starter, but a cobbled-together mix of Braves relief pitchers.

With starter Alex Wood sidelined because of a forearm injury, the Braves used five bullpen arms to stymie the Phillies.

James Russell, who started for the first time since 2011, went four innings before handing off to Luis Avilan (4-1), who earned the win with two shutout innings. Craig Kimbrel came on to notch his 47th save.

“They gave me a chance, so I thought I might as well show what I could do,” Russell said. “I’ve always had confidence in myself as a starter, and I was happy to get the chance.”

The Braves needed their bullpen to come through because Hamels was nearly as stingy.

After allowing the first four Braves batters to reach base, Hamels didn’t allow a hit the rest of the way.

Hamels, who remained in the game after getting hit in the mouth by Tommy La Stella’s grounder in the second inning, retired 20 consecutive Braves before hitting Joey Terdoslavich with a pitch in the seventh inning.

“What a great pitcher,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Hamels. “We sniffed a couple of runs off him in the first inning, then he gets hit in the face and almost pitches a complete game.”

Emilio Bonifacio led off the game with home run, and Freddie Freeman followed Phil Gosselin’s walk and stolen base with an RBI single to give the Braves the only offense they needed.

The Phillies scored their lone run in the eighth inning when Freddy Galvis scored on Ben Revere’s double play groundout. Revere got a hit earlier in the game to finish tied with Washington Nationals outfielder Dennard Span for the NL lead with 184 hits.

Not accustomed to rebuilding, both teams face an uncertain offseason. The Braves finished with a losing record (79-83) for the first time since 2008 and the third time since 1991.

“It’s fun to end the season in a positive way,” Russell said. “It’s just a shame we didn’t make a better push for the playoffs.”

The Braves were in first place in the NL East as late as July 20, but went 25-39 in the final 64 games.

Meanwhile, the Phillies (73-89) finished with an identical record to 2013 and posted consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1999 and 2000.

“Last place is a first for me,” said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who didn’t play during the final few weeks of the season due to a hamstring injury. “We started rebuilding this year.

“We need to find ways to score runs with the guys we have, plus one or two guys they go get, and guys that fill out the bench. Rebuilding is something that started this year, and we played like a rebuilding team.”


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