MIAMI -- The Philadelphia Phillies batted for 12 minutes Wednesday in the first inning. The first two hitters, Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins, singled. Rollins stole second. There were two men in scoring position with none out, a chance for Cole Hamels to pitch with a rare lead.
"Make two outs and get two runs," Ryne Sandberg said after a 5-0 loss to the Marlins. "Maybe it's a different tone."
The Phillies never scored. Hamels watched the familiar horror from the Marlins Park dugout. The lefthander pitched the next five innings without his finest arsenal. He survived a 34-pitch first inning, escaped another bases-loaded jam in the fourth, and succumbed to two doubles in the fifth.
The nightmare deepens. Near perfection is required of Hamels whenever he steps on a mound. He posted a 1.88 ERA in his previous 10 starts, and the Phillies won just five. They are a season-worst 12 games under .500 after this latest failure, their sixth loss in a row and 10th in 12 tries.
The Phillies were shut out for the 11th time in 84 games. In the last 100 years, only the 1941 Phillies suffered more shutouts (12) in their first 84 games. That team went 43-111.
Sandberg looked exasperated afterward. He said he planned to speak with his players before Thursday's game. What, possibly, is there to preach to this forlorn team?
"I'll come up with something," Sandberg said.
These Phillies do not support their ace, a crime that breeds the most frustration. They are 27-32 in games started by Hamels since July 25, 2012, the day he signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension. His ERA is 3.28 in those 59 starts. That .458 winning percentage with Hamels pitching is just a few clicks above the team's current pace.
Hamels shunned free agency two summers ago because he believed in the team's vision, one that is obscured more each day.
"It was the reason I enjoy playing here -- the organization wants to win and the fans want to win," Hamels said. "That's the promise they portrayed to me, and my promise was to go out there and uphold my end of the bargain, which is to win ball games. I don't get to pitch every game, but sometimes it would be nice to.
"It's kind of a tough situation. I think it's more in their hands and the decisions they make. All I can do is be accountable for what I do on the field and prepare. It's a great city to play for. It's pure joy to play in front of a sellout crowd that wants and expects championships, just like ourselves."
His pitches were not sharp Wednesday. He issued a four-pitch walk to Jeff Baker that loaded the bases in the fourth. Donovan Solano, a .178 hitter, slashed a run-scoring single to right. Hamels hung a change-up to Ed Lucas in the fifth. He drilled it for a double that scored Christian Yelich, who reached on a leadoff walk. It was 2-0.
Sandberg lifted Hamels after five innings and 97 pitches. He threw seven or more innings in his previous 10 starts.
His offense mustered no base runners from the second through the fifth innings. The Phillies stranded a runner on third in both the first and sixth innings. The seventh inning encapsulated this hopelessness: Ryan Howard singled to right but John Mayberry Jr., Cody Asche and Koyie Hill struck out on 13 pitches.
The later innings caused more pain, some of it literal for Mario Hollands. Marcell Ozuna struck the reliever's right shin with an eighth-inning liner. Hollands stayed in the game to permit a two-run homer to Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That snapped an 18-inning scoreless streak for the rookie lefthander.
Baker followed with a double, enough for Sandberg and an assistant athletic trainer to pay Hollands another visit. Sandberg called for a new reliever. The manager removed Chase Utley, who went 0 for 4, as part of a double switch. Yet again, the white flag flew.
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