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Jim Salisbury | Cole wasn’t cool at the start

The Colorado Rockies had a good plan against Cole Hamels yesterday, and an unusual blast of October heat and humidity made it that much better.

The Colorado Rockies had a good plan against Cole Hamels yesterday, and an unusual blast of October heat and humidity made it that much better.

The Rockies made Hamels work hard in the first two innings by consciously laying off his off-speed pitches and "not firing at anything we didn't think was a fastball early in the count," their manager, Clint Hurdle, said.

The strategy helped the Rockies score three runs in the second inning, enough to hang a 4-2 defeat on the Phillies' ace in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at steamy Citizens Bank Park.

Yes, steamy.

The calendar says it's apple-pickin' time, but the sun came out before game time and the air grew thick with humidity, the kind Hamels never experienced growing up in the climatic paradise that is San Diego. The temperature at first pitch was 81, but the humidity made it feel hotter.

Hamels was not dressed for the weather. After missing a month recently with a tender left elbow, he wanted to keep his arm warm, so he wore a long-sleeve undershirt beneath his jersey.

Bad move.

"He was dying out there," said Brett Myers, who watched the first few innings in the video room behind the dugout before heading to the bullpen.

"After the first inning, he came in the video room and said, 'It's hot out there.' I said, 'That's all right, it's hot for them, too.' He said, 'Yeah, but I've got sleeves on, like a dummy.' "

After recounting that exchange, Myers asked: "Why is it so hot?"

That's a question for a more meteorologically savvy scribe, or maybe Hurricane Schwartz.

All we know is the heat may have had something to do with the assault the Rockies unleashed on Hamels in the second inning. (Notice we said "something." The Rockies are an offensive juggernaut; they don't need a lot of outside help.)

The Rockies batted around in the second inning and Hamels threw 40 pitches, raising his two-inning total to 56. He walked three, the first time he'd done that in one inning since his major-league debut.

When Hamels came out for the third inning, the long sleeves were gone and he reeled off four straight 1-2-3 innings.

"I don't want to use that as an excuse," Hamels said of his decision to wear long sleeves.

But . . .

"It was definitely hot," he said. ". . . When it gets hot, I'm going to sweat a little more, and when I was throwing my change-up the sweat was dripping down in my hand and I wasn't able to get a good grip on it. A lot of change-ups in the second inning, they took, and they obviously were not strikes."

So the sleeves hurt?

"A little," Hamels said. "I realized it so I changed them as fast as I could because I didn't want to have another inning like that."

Can a sweaty hand affect a pitcher's control?

"Absolutely," Myers said. "When it's really humid, I've had trouble gripping my curveball. I never liked using rosin because it was like baby powder and my hand would feel slick. Now I put the rosin on my wrist and when the sweat runs down my hand gets tacky."

Catcher Carlos Ruiz was surprised Hamels started the game in long sleeves, and he said the pitcher mentioned the heat between innings.

But Ruiz didn't blame the Phillies' losing on a sweaty hand.

"He threw good, especially after the third inning when he threw more fastballs," Ruiz said of Hamels. "We didn't hit. We know we can hit. We need to relax tomorrow, get some runs, and make it easy on the pitcher."

Colorado lefty Jeff Francis pitched in short sleeves and, save for back-to-back homers by Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell in the fifth, manhandled the Phillies for six innings. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phils' two big lefthanded sticks, were 0 for 8 with seven strikeouts, and the prospect of facing another lefthander (Franklin Morales) today is not comforting.

Hamels knows he was beaten by the Rockies' strategy of making him work early, and he attributed that to good scouting. After the second inning, he began getting ahead more with his fastball and had better results. But it was too late by then.

Ironically, the Rockies' big second inning began with a first-pitch fastball. Phillies killer Todd Helton hit it for a triple and scored on Garrett Atkins' double, which came on a 2-2 change-up.

Hamels said he fell into Helton's trap and didn't locate the first-pitch fastball well enough.

"We were trying to go away," Ruiz said, "and it was down the middle."

"With Atkins," Hamels said, "I threw too many change-ups and left one on a platter for him."

Hamels' first postseason start was a learning experience. If he pitches again in this series, you can expect he'll try to get ahead more with his fastball early in the game.

As for the long sleeves? Snow showers might have to be in the forecast before he breaks those out again.

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