The Phillies were three outs away last night from enjoying the same euphoria they had enjoyed a night earlier. They were three outs away from another late win that felt so unlikely at times. They were three outs away from beginning a challenging road trip by winning two games at Wrigley Field, which has been a house of horrors for them the last few seasons.
Three outs proved to be much more challenging than it sounds, especially when you’re operating without four of your top relievers. The Phillies fell short, but they have little time to soak in the defeat. Cole Hamels is waiting for them tonight.
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— Matt Breen (email@example.com)
The last time the Phillies saw Cole Hamels pitch, he was putting the finishing touches on a no-hitter at Wrigley Field in his final start with the Phillies. The Phillies were on their way that summer to the worst record in baseball, and Hamels would be traded just days later.
The Phillies tonight will get their first look at Hamels since then. The ballpark will be the same, Wrigley Field, but that’s about it. The Phillies, even after Tuesday night’s loss, are in first place; Hamels is pitching for the team he no-hit; and just a handful of Phillies players still remain from the team that was at Wrigley that July 2015 afternoon for his no-hitter.
The price for Hamels last summer was not steep, as all it took for the Cubs was a fringe reliever, a 22-year-old Class A starting pitcher, and a 17-year-old outfielder who has yet to play past the Dominican Summer League. The Phillies surely could have pitched a competitive package if they were serious about adding Hamels, who had a 4.72 ERA at the time of the trade from the Texas Rangers.
The real price was Hamels’ contract, which included a $20 million option for 2019. Not only did teams have to decide last summer if Hamels could help them in 2018, but they had to consider the chance that they would have a $20 million struggling pitcher in their rotation for 2019. The Cubs gambled, believing Hamels could rediscover himself in a new city. And the gamble is paying off.
Hamels has a 3.13 ERA in his first nine starts this season. He’s walked three batters or fewer in eight of those nine starts, and the Cubs have won all but two of his starts. Hamels has been electric at Wrigley, where he has a 2.68 ERA in 21 starts since the Cubs acquired him.
He’s finding success by limiting walks and mixing a career-high groundball rate (54.7 percent) with a strikeout rate (8.9 percent) that resembles his career average. Hamels has not been afraid to pitch to contact, and the contact has usually been weak. That style will present a nice challenge tonight for the Phillies lineup.
Pat Neshek was unavailable Tuesday night after he warmed up or pitched in four straight games. He clarified before Tuesday’s game why he did not pitch Monday night despite warming up. Neshek said the call came from the bullpen too late for him to be ready to pitch against the batter the Phillies wanted him to face. The late call nearly cost the Phillies their biggest win of the season.
Nick Pivetta struggled Tuesday night in triple A as he continues to work his way toward rejoining the major-league rotation. Marc Narducci was at Pivetta’s start in Allentown as Pivetta walked four batters, allowed three runs, and threw 98 pitches in five innings. “I am focused on what I need to do down here to make myself a better pitcher and help the team win,” Pivetta said.
Also in Allentown, Dylan Cozens was ruled out for the season after undergoing foot surgery. Cozens, who is on the 40-man roster, responded to the news by tweeting “not out for season.” Triple-A manager Gary Jones then said Cozens “will be out for a long time.”
Tonight: Cole Irvin vs. Cole Hamels, 8:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola faces Jon Lester, 2:20 p.m.
Friday: Phillies open a three-game series in Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Monday: Phillies are off on Memorial Day.
Bryce Harper went 0-for-4 in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss as he failed to reach base for the first time in his career at Wrigley Field.
Harper had entered Tuesday with a .512 on-base percentage in 18 games at Wrigley and a 1.046 OPS in 84 career plate appearances there. His on-base percentage is the highest in the ballpark’s history among all batters with at least 80 plate appearances, and his OPS is the tops among active players with at least 80 plate appearances.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: My question is how in the world are the Phillies not playing on Memorial Day?! I get it’s their only day off in 21 days but make either the Thursday before or Thursday after Memorial Day weekend their day off. It’s unAmerican, all baseball teams should be playing on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. I have off and look forward to watching baseball all day on a summer Holiday, especially the Phillies. Why are they off? And when was the last time the Phillies haven’t played on Memorial Day? — Pete G. via email
Answer: Thanks, Pete. I wish I had a good answer, but I’ll chalk it up to a weird schedule this year.
I can’t remember the last time the Phillies were off on any of the three summer holidays, and I agree that it doesn’t make sense that they won’t be playing Monday. The Phillies join the Giants, Cardinals, and Braves as the only teams with an off day Monday.