There have been times this season and in the past when Cole Hamels has been a victim.
He would be consistently great and the Phillies' offense would be constantly absent.
This was not one of those times.
The Phillies arrived at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday morning with a chance to extend their winning streak to four games, a modest accomplishment they have failed to achieve this season.
With Hamels facing Cleveland's Corey Kluber, a righthander with a career 5.42 ERA in 20 games, the Phillies had to be energized upon arrival, which is the way you are supposed to feel whenever your ace takes the mound.
It should have been win day.
Instead, a 10-4 loss sapped the Phillies' modicum of momentum and created a lot more to be concerned about than the latest lack of offense against a lackluster pitcher.
Hamels, who has pitched with a lead in just four of his 562/3 innings this season, deserved as much if not more of the blame for this failed effort.
"It was my job to go out there and execute pitches, and I wasn't able to do that early on," Hamels said after his record slipped to 1-6 and the Phillies fell to 1-8 in his nine starts. "Anytime you go to 3-2 to the whole lineup over and over, you're not putting yourself in a good spot."
Because he could not command the strike zone to home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna's satisfaction, it took Hamels 77 pitches to get through the first three innings. He went to three-ball counts on seven of the first 12 batters he faced, while also walking a batter and hitting another.
He threw only two pitches to slugger Mark Reynolds in the third inning, but the second one was a cut fastball that hung over the middle of the plate. Reynolds ripped it down the left-field line for a two-run double, and the Phillies were down for good in this game.
"It doesn't keep my team on their toes . . . and it just makes for a really boring game and obviously a losing game," Hamels said of his inability to throw strikes consistently.
Hamels stopped getting into three-ball counts after the third inning, but only because the Indians took a liking to some of his earlier offerings.
Cleveland tacked on a run in the fourth when Mike Aviles hit a misplaced fastball for a solo home run. The Indians scored two times in the fifth when Jason Kipnis hit a 2-0 pitch for a double and scored when Nick Swisher hit a 2-0 cut fastball for a home run.
It took Hamels 106 pitches to navigate five innings, and the cast of suspect middle relievers combined to put the game out of reach.
"It's not all on Cole," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "I mean, he's gone out and thrown some great games. Today was one of those games that it just wasn't in his favor today. But we've had times where the offense, we haven't been able to pick him up."
The chicken and the egg are in a dead heat. The offense has scored three or fewer runs in five of Hamels' nine starts, but he did not pitch well in his opening-day start at Atlanta and gave away a 4-0 first-inning lead in his second start of the season against Kansas City.
Hamels' ERA is 4.61, the highest it has been this late in the season since Aug. 21, 2009. The Phillies, of course, went to the World Series despite the lefthander's struggles that season. They did not need him then as much as they do now.
"Oh, I think he's going to figure it out," manager Charlie Manuel said. "When I look at him, what I see is he's definitely wanting it. He's trying hard. He might be trying to make too good of pitches. He was moving the ball around, but he wasn't getting many strikes."
Not much has gone right for Hamels in these first six-plus weeks, and if that does not change in the next 20 weeks, this will be a lost season.
"When you're losing, the darkness keeps creeping in, so you have to keep battling it and keeping it at bay," Hamels said. "I've had a lot of success, so I know what to revert to in order to go out and enjoy the game. It's just a matter of making those few tweaks and being back out there on top."