HOUSTON - The Phillies owed Cole Hamels one or two, and yesterday they paid him back nicely at Minute Maid Park.
He struggled, but they hit. They had his back.
Hamels allowed seven hits, six runs and one walk and struck out none in just four innings of a 15-6 victory over the Houston Astros that sent the Phillies home with a 4-3 mark on their seven-game trip.
"It's probably one of the worst games I've pitched all season," Hamels said.
His struggles yesterday only reminded everyone how well Hamels has pitched since his big-league debut with the Phillies on May 12, 2006, against the Cincinnati Reds.
It marked just the second time in Hamels' 62 career starts that he had not struck out a batter. The first came Aug. 24, 2006, against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, when Hamels pitched after he sliced his left index finger mishandling a box cutter. He allowed nine runs in just two innings that day.
It also marked Hamels' shortest outing since he lasted three innings throwing on a pitch count Sept. 18 in St. Louis, his first start back from the disabled list. Hamels lasted four innings June 25 in St. Louis, but that was due to a 1 hour, 36-minute rain delay that came after the fourth inning.
Not counting those two games, it was Hamels' shortest start since he lasted four innings Sept. 10, 2006, at Florida.
"I'll try to make it the only bad game I pitch," said Hamels, who did not have command of his fastball.
The Phillies wasted opportunities to beat the Astros in losses Friday and Saturday, but they tried to make up for it by scoring a season-high 15 runs and collecting 16 hits. They were 7 for 14 with runners in scoring position. Chase Utley and Shane Victorino each had three RBIs. Geoff Jenkins and Greg Dobbs each had two RBIs. Five other players knocked in a run.
Utley, Jenkins and Pat Burrell homered.
"I think we have the capability of scoring a lot of runs," Utley said. "It's hard to have a full lineup that's hot all the time, one through eight. But if two or three guys get rolling, I think we definitely can score some runs. But I still feel like we have room for improvement."
The Phillies scored just one run in the first two games of the road trip, 19 in the next two, just six in the next two and 15 yesterday.
"We're a little inconsistent," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It seems like we're always coming from behind. That's definitely not good on our starting pitching."
Yesterday they bailed out their starter.
Hamels had earned it.