Nov 1, 2009, 12:46 AM EDT
It seems like the story has been repeated several times this year. Cole Hamels came out firing again Saturday, keeping the Yankees hitless through three innings. The only one of the first 11 hitters to reach did so on a HBP. And then it all fell apart, too quickly for Charlie Manuel to do much of anything about it. Mark Teixeira walked and Alex Rodriguez homered in the fourth. In the fifth, four of the first five batters delivered hits, resulting in three runs. Hamels left down 5-3, and the Yankees ended up winning 8-5.
For the fourth straight postseason start, Hamels failed to last six innings. He’s given up 16 runs and seven homers in 19 innings. Compare that to the 2008 postseason, when he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and gave up two homers in 35 innings.
The search for a reason has been on for months. How could one of the league’s best be so consistently mediocre for so long? His strikeout, walk and home run rates are practically identical to his 2008 marks. His groundball rate is actually up slightly. His velocity readings are essentially the same.
Pitch tipping? It’d be the easiest explanation, but it’s one the Phillies have surely examined time and time again. I think a big part is that the league has gotten smarter about laying off his excellent changeup. Hamels has never had a remarkable fastball, and his curve is average at best. If you swing at those pitches, you have a pretty good chance against him.
Unable to come back after Hamels departed, the Phillies are now down 2-1 in the World Series. Andy Pettitte wasn’t great, but he neutralized the left-handers — Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez combined to go 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the game — and that ensured that both of Jayson Werth’s homers were solo shots. Alex Rodriguez, the redeemed Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui went deep for the Yankees in the victory.
The Phillies, so confident after Game 1, can’t be feeling good about things now. The decision to back up Cliff Lee to Game 5 leaves them with essentially no choice other than to start Hamels in a potential Game 7. J.A. Happ would be the alternative, and he’ll probably be too burnt from relief work. The Yankees, meanwhile, are all set to go with CC Sabathia against Joe Blanton on Sunday. The Phillies will have to pull off quite an upset to avoid falling behind 3-1.