PHILADELPHIA -- The cheery 10-day West Coast trip the Phillies just completed was followed by a dreary return home to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
Cold -- it was 46 degrees at game time -- and a wind-driven rain made life miserable for the players. Lefthander Cole Hamels 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.
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.
Maybe it was the weather, although the conditions were strikingly similar to what Hamels pitched in during Day I of Game 5 in the 2008 World Series. Maybe it was the month. Hamels' record in April is 14-15, with a 4.05 earned run average. His ERA is not above four in any other month. Maybe it was the Mets, the National League team that has given Hamels more problems than any other during his career.
With Tuesday night's loss, 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.
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.
Hamels allowed three hits, including an RBI double to Young, hit a batter and issued his fifth walk before his outing ended on an RBI single by d'Arnaud. It took him 31 more pitches -- only 16 were strikes -- to get his two outs in the fifth.
It was a miserable night for the lefthander and an even worse one for the scant few who inexplicably stuck around to see the game through to its end.
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