Hamels stumbles again as Phils fall to Mets

Cole Hamels was handed a 3-0 lead by his teammates, but then the offense stopped scoring and the Mets chipped away for a 4-3 win, dropping Hamels to 2-11 this season. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Cole Hamels was handed a 3-0 lead by his teammates, but then the offense stopped scoring and the Mets chipped away for a 4-3 win, dropping Hamels to 2-11 this season. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 23, 2013

When the speakers at Citizens Bank Park blasted Led Zeppelin, it signaled a moment for which Charlie Manuel longed. Nearing the halfway mark of 2013, his Phillies possessed their best roster thus far. Chase Utley returned Friday to a rock song. His teammates jumped to a three-run lead in the second inning.

And Cole Hamels, the priciest player on an expensive and underachieving roster, could not contain a hapless New York Mets team from overcoming it. A 4-3 Phillies loss was but one microcosm in a season immobilized by averageness. Their failure to win when their $144 million ace pitches is a primary reason.

This season was to be Hamels' christening as one of the game's finest arms, a 29-year-old pitcher in his prime, a guarantee every fifth day. It, like most things, morphed into a nightmare for these Phillies.

They are 2-14 in his starts. The lefthander is saddled with 11 losses, which ties a career high. The last Phillies pitchers with 11 losses before the end of June were Wayne LaMaster and Claude Passeau, both in 1937.

"He's definitely pitched better than his record indicates," Utley said. "Knowing him, it's not going to affect him."

Hamels' season is perplexing. He has a 4.50 ERA. When he dazzles, his team does not support him. When his team provides a rare lead, he stumbles.

He was plain mediocre Friday. Hamels, of course, did not allow the game slip into chaos. Those three runs of support all came in the second inning. The Phillies stranded 10.

"I don't know what I can do," a peeved Manuel said. "If we don't hit and score runs, I don't know what we can do. I don't know what nobody else can do about it."

The Mets were hitless through three innings on 41 pitches. They banged seven hits in the next three innings to take an insurmountable lead.

This is a trend for Hamels' season. Opponents have a .619 OPS against the first time through the batting order. That figure rises to .803 during the second trip and .855 for the third plate appearance. His career numbers show the same tendency, just not as pronounced.

Hamels' fastball was erratic in the fifth. Juan Lagares, a .211 hitter in the lineup for his glove, bashed a double on a flat cutter. Middling shortstop Omar Quintanilla smacked a single on a high fastball. Eric Young Jr., designated for assignment last week by Colorado but good enough to lead off for the Mets, hit another poor fastball for a two-run single. An inning later, Lagares pushed the Mets ahead with an RBI double.

"Would I rather not get any runs and pitch well or would I rather pitch bad and get runs?" Hamels asked rhetorically. "You really can't be selfish in this game. It comes back to haunt you. . . . You're considered a winner when you're on a winning team."

Before Friday's loss, Manuel predicted hits not for the opposition but for Utley. The Phillies second baseman was activated after two games at double-A Reading in which he was hitless. When he swung, his strained right oblique did not hurt.

Utley missed 28 games. His return, an 0-for-5 night with five stranded, was forgettable.

"I had some opportunities to drive in runs," Utley said. "I didn't do that. But, overall picture, I feel good and I feel like I can contribute."

Jeremy Hefner, a man the Phillies have often tortured, danced between 10 hits in six innings. Two months ago, the Mets righty permitted five Phillies runs in the first inning. But the first 74 games have revealed these Phillies are consistent at being inconsistent. This was the latest chapter.

Contact Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow @magelb on Twitter.

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