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Frustration continues for Hamels

WASHINGTON -- While Cole Hamels has had a nightmarish start to this season, he certainly hasn't been helped by a lack of run support and recently defensive support.

The Phillies committed three errors and once again didn't score while Hamels was in the game during Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.

Yes, Hamels 4.43 ERA is an indication that he hasn't pitched up to his ability, but the 1-8 record is awfully misleading.

Through six innings he had shut out the Nationals and was pitching like the old Hamels, although he is still getting himself into too many jams, which explains a high pitch count. On Sunday he threw 111 pitches in 6 1/3 innings.

Even in the five-run seventh inning, had Michael Young made the play at home instead of bouncing a throw to catcher Humberto Quintero for a two-run error, who knows what would have occurred?

Of course Steve Lombardozzi then hit a two-run double that broke the game open.

That's the thing, it's players like Lombardozzi a No. 8 hitter in the lineup, who have hurt the Phillies this year. In Washington's two wins this weekend, he totaled four RBIs.

Yet he is the type of hitter who wouldn't enjoy success if Hamels was at his sharpest.

Some of it is on Hamels for sure, more of it is on the team.

It's interesting to get an opposing perspective on Hamels. While an opponent wouldn't bash him, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman, went out of his way to praise Hamels.

"Cole's numbers aren't what they usually are but that doesn't mean he isn't a really good pitcher and he pitched great today," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman started the five-run seventh inning rally by reaching base on an infield hit. Freddy Galvis just fielded and flipped his slow roller to first but the Nationals third baseman just beat the throw. Those are the type of close plays that have hurt Hamels.

"You look at his numbers and ERA and things like that and look at film and how he threw today and he's always tough," Zimmerman said.

Hamels won't admit it, but when he takes the mound, the Phillies lefthander has to feel snake-bit.

He has not pitched with a lead in a game since April 7 against Kansas City when the Phillies had a 4-2 advantage entering the top of the fifth. The Phillies lost that game 9-8 in Hamels worst outing of the season.

No, he hasn't pitched to the level he has in the past, but Sunday was the eighth time in his last nine starts that Hamels has allowed three earned runs or fewer.

"It's just part of the game," Hamels said afterwards when asked about not pitching with a lead for more than seven weeks. "You have to go out there and bear down and execute pitch after pitch, try to get through the hitters, the innings and obviously the game."

So everybody realizes that Hamels has pitched better than his record, but until the Phillies start winning some of his games, the frustration will continue.

The players talked about how badly they feel for Hamels and his lack of run support.

"He pitches his (butt) off for us every time," said Kevin Frandsen. "As his teammates, sooner or later we're going to come through for him"

Frandsen then made an appropriate comparison.

"Obviously, it's kind of like what happened with Cliff (Lee) last year," Frandsen said. "We didn't score for him and he pitched his (butt) off for us."

Lee went just 6-9 but was ninth in the National League with a 3.16 ERA.

One has to wonder if the Phillies are pressing too hard for Hamels. Or if Hamels, knowing he hasn't received run support, is pitching as if he has no margin for error.

Any little mistake becomes magnified and the Phillies are 1-10 in games started by Hamels, one of the most mind-boggling and unanticipated statistics anybody could have imagined going into this Phillies season.