The cheery 10-day West Coast trip the Phillies just completed was followed by a dreary return home to Citizens Bank Park Tuesday night.
Cold - it was 46 degrees at game time - and a wind-driven rain made life miserable for the players, particularly lefthander Cole Hamels. The pitcher, by his own admission, made the evening entirely unbearable for the minuscule few in attendance. The announced crowd was 28,189. The actual crowd was at least 20,000 short of that and those who remained had to sit through a 1-hour, 28-minute rain delay before the game started at 8:33 p.m.
With a chance to become just the eighth pitcher in franchise history to reach 100 victories, Hamels instead lost control and lasted just 42/3 innings in a 6-1 loss to the surging New York Mets that planted the Phillies (13-13) back at .500.
Hamels said, among other things, that he was embarrassed and he said it over and over again.
"Not being able to locate pitches and not being able to throw strikes or even apply a plan of attack to hitters . . . it creates a serious issue," Hamels said. "It led to a very poor performance. From my standpoint I'm truly embarrassed because I didn't give anybody a chance. Balls weren't being put in play because I wasn't allowing them to be put in play. I wasn't allowing my teammates to get into the game."
Making his second start since returning from the biceps tendinitis that left him behind during spring training, Hamels surrendered six runs on eight hits. He also walked five batters, hit another and threw a wild pitch. He looked nothing like the pitcher who delivered six strong innings in his season debut last week against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
He said the cold weather was a factor, but it wasn't an excuse because his opponent, Jonathon Niese, pitched extremely well. Hamels' April record fell to 14-15 with a 4.05 earned run average. His ERA is not above four in any other month.
Hamels slipped to 7-14 with a 4.65 ERA against New York. That's more losses than he has against any team and his worst ERA against any NL club. He said that wasn't the issue.
"I wasn't able to build up enough sweat," he said. "It definitely felt like a cue ball. I think today might have been the day to use pine tar, but unfortunately I don't do that. It might have been a good day for that. You have to be able to battle out there and I wasn't able to do it."
The Mets (15-11) won for the seventh time in nine games behind three hits from Daniel Murphy and a strong performance by Jonathon Niese, who allowed just one run on four hits over seven innings.
New York scored once in the third, twice in the fourth, and three times in the fifth to chase Hamels from the game.
Ruben Tejeda doubled and scored on a two-out Murphy single in the third and Hamels started to come undone in the fourth.
After retiring David Wright on a fly ball to left field to start the inning, Hamels issued consecutive walks to Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. Josh Satin singled home New York's second run, but it appeared as if Hamels might escape with minimal damage when he struck out Travis d'Arnaud. Even after walking Tejeda to load the bases, all Hamels had to do to end the inning was retire Niese.
Instead, he walked the pitcher, handing the Mets a 3-0 lead. It took Hamels 37 pitches to get through the inning. Only 15 were strikes.
Marlon Byrd got the Phillies within two runs in the bottom of the fourth when he got his team's first hit, a two-out home run deep into the left-field seats, but New York put up three more runs in the fifth as Hamels continued to struggle throwing strikes. He only got two more outs and it took 31 pitches - only 16 were strikes - to do so before he was removed from the game.
"Throwing 50-something balls, I don't do that," Hamels said. "I guess now I can say that I have done it."
He's hoping he doesn't have to say it again anytime soon.