Cole Hamels' line, in Saturday night's 6-4 loss to the Marlins: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 HR allowed. Not exactly an "ace's" line. More like a "pedestrian fifth starter's" line. But, we've been over this before. There is little cause for alarm. Consistent LD% + Aberrant BABIP = BAD LUCK! With some better luck, and some better managing, Hamels could have come out of Saturday night with a victory. Instead, the loss evened his record at 7-7, with a 4.77 ERA that is considerably higher than his FIP of 4.02.
Hamels' night started well, as he threw a third strike to Marlins' leadoff batter, Chris Coghlan. Unfortunately, the pitch was called a ball. The hot-hitting Coghlan capitalized on the umpire fail, driving a home run over the fence in center. (The ball landed in the area known to Phillies' fans as "Bako Territory.") The difference between a fly ball, and a home run, is largely dependent upon the batter, and the ballpark. Hamels had a HR/FB ratio of 11.2% in the 2008 regular season, followed by a remarkably fortunate 5.3% in the postseason. Hamels' ratio in the 2009 regular season has been a rather unfortunate 13.7%.
The Marlins scraped together another single run in the third. Hamels was uncharacteristically wild, walking consecutive batters. (Hamels has a superb 1.89 BB/9. BB/9 is a good indicator of a pitcher's effectiveness, as it is almost solely under the pitcher's control.) Hamels got Hanley Ramirez to hit the ball on the ground, but the Phils were unable to turn an inning-ending twin killing. The run tied the score at two, but the Phillies regained a 3-2 lead, in the bottom of the frame.
The score remained 3-2 Phillies, as play entered the sixth inning. Hamels, partially due to the three walks he had allowed, had a pitch count over ninety. Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel could have pulled Hamels at that point, with the southpaw having permitted only a pair of runs, in five innings. However, Manuel chose to try to get another inning out of Hamels. Perhaps with Jamie Moyer scheduled to start the following day, Manuel was reticent to leave four innings (at minimum) to be filled by his bullpen, and wanted to avoid using long reliever Rodrigo Lopez. A tiring Hamels walked the leadoff batter. After Dan Uggla struck out, Cody Ross hit a fly ball that left the homer-friendly ballpark. A single later, and Hamels' night was done, his ERA further scarred.
If Hamels had received a little more luck, and a little more support, we'd likely be talking about the ace's "return to form." But two additional eighth-inning runs were surrendered by reliever Chan Ho Park, and the Phils' offense fell two runs short in the ninth, losing 6-4. Though Marlins' starter Sean West has pretty much been a "pedestrian fifth starter" personified, the Phillies typically-potent bats could not solve the young southpaw. Cole Hamels deserved better on Saturday night, and has deserved better for most of this season.