There was a time, Charlie Manuel said, when the lack of run support would have frustrated Cole Hamels. He would have taken long walks behind the mound, slammed his glove on his hip, or shaken his head in disgust.

None of that happened in Hamels' first six starts since the all-star break, even though he pitched to the tune of a 2.14 ERA and did not have a win to show for it.

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But in a 5-2 loss to San Francisco at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night, Hamels did not pitch effectively, as he has lately. Of course, the offense provided zero support again, so it didn't matter.

"It's hard to explain," Manuel said.

The Phillies had one hit in the first eight innings Thursday. They managed a whopping three in the ninth, including a two-run double by Mike Sweeney, but that wasn't nearly enough.

At least it was more offensive production than in Hamels' last start, when he had the only hit in a 1-0 loss to the Mets in New York.

The lack of runs meant less Thursday, because by the fourth inning the Phillies would have needed another miracle comeback. Hamels pitched only five innings and allowed five runs. He was tagged for three in the first inning. Considering the Phils hadn't scored a run for Hamels since Aug. 1, that was pretty daunting.

"When you put up a three-spot in the first inning," Hamels said, "it's tough for your team to come back."

The Phillies didn't have a runner on second base until the ninth inning, long after the game had been decided.

Hamels couldn't feel like a hard-luck loser as he had before. It was his worst outing since June 26, when he was shaky early against Toronto and never able to establish command. Thursday followed the same script.

It's unfair not to expect a hiccup from Hamels, especially given the tightrope he has had to walk since mid-July. Last season, those hiccups turned into prolonged slumps when Hamels let it bother him. At the beginning of spring training, pitching coach Rich Dubee said Hamels was "pitching against himself."

"He learned a lot about himself last year," Manuel said before the game. "This guy has always been able to deal with things."

In his last two starts, both against the Mets, Hamels lost 1-0 games. He allowed two earned runs in 15 innings.

On Thursday, the first batter of the game, Aaron Rowand, struck out. But it took Hamels seven pitches to put the former Phillie away, and that should have been a good sign that Thursday posed a tougher challenge. He needed 30 pitches to survive the first inning.

After Freddy Sanchez doubled, Buster Posey worked a six-pitch at-bat into a run-scoring double. Pat Burrell followed with a seven-pitch walk, the first batter the Phillies had walked in 19 innings.

Four batters into the game, Hamels had thrown 22 pitches, with one out to show for it. The next two batters - Jose Guillen and Juan Uribe - each swung at the first pitch, and each drove in a run with a single.

"When you can't hit your spots and you finally do throw pitches over the plate," Hamels said, "they're going to swing."

As it stands, Hamels is the best 7-10 pitcher in baseball. He's fine with that.

"I haven't really followed the wins and losses," the lefthander said. "I try to blank that out. It's one of those statistics that is starting to fade away for a starter in this day and age. I don't think it really defines what they're doing."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at 215-854-2928 or Follow on Twitter @magelb.