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PHI@ATL: Victorino drives in Rollins to open scoring

ATLANTA -- The good news is Cole Hamels has more than six years of starts ahead of him.

The bad news is each loss for the Phillies before Tuesday's Trade Deadline is a killer.

Two days removed from signing a six-year, $144 million contract extension with the Phillies -- the second largest contract for a pitcher in baseball history -- Hamels struggled through five innings in a 6-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on Friday night. Hamels walked a career-high six batters, throwing more balls (56) than strikes (53) for the first time in his career when he has thrown 100 or more pitches.

"It was a long week," Hamels said. "I don't think I'll ever have to experience it again. It's a long, stressful week. The highs and lows you have as a person or athlete, it was probably the ultimate. To have it during the baseball season was a little different. Guys will go through it during the offseason and obviously don't have to go out the next day and play.

"I'm glad I can finally try to move past it. I think this start is something I'll definitely move past. Getting back to the normal routine and keeping my emotions in check, that would be more characteristic of what I'm used to."

The Phillies needed better from Hamels on Friday. They have two games to play before the Trade Deadline, and the organization is deciding whether to hold or fold. The Phillies might need to win both games this weekend to make a case to hold after falling to 45-55 and 10 1/2 games behind the National League Wild Card leaders.

"These three games are important, yeah," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before the game. "How determinant they are about how we go about our business from here on in, I don't know yet. Again, it's kind of a fluid situation. If we get swept here, it's going to make things very daunting for us. We take two out of three, that's good. We happen to sweep them, even better."

A sweep is out, but the Phillies still can take two of three.

They have Joe Blanton (8-8, 4.70 ERA) facing Mike Minor (5-7, 5.49) on Saturday and Roy Halladay (4-5, 4.32 ERA) facing Tim Hudson (9-4, 3.71 ERA) on Sunday. But starting pitching has not been the team's strength this season or even since the break, when it has played better overall. Phillies starters have a 4.36 ERA since the break, compared to the bullpen's 3.53 mark.

"Obviously, I didn't do my job," Hamels said. "We'll find it. We hit some rough patches. With the caliber of players we have, I know we'll be able to find it. I know it's a little more urgent to do right now, but I have the confidence all five of us will work hard and get the job done.

"Allow us to be what we're capable of doing. That's what got us into trouble; we tried to do too much. It pushed the issue and caused problems."

Hamels averaged 2.26 walks per nine innings from 2006-12, which ranked 15th out of 103 qualifying pitchers in baseball in that span. His 3.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked fifth, behind Halladay (5.04), Dan Haren (4.43), Cliff Lee (4.26) and Zack Greinke (3.80).

But Hamels could not find the strike zone Friday. The hot, humid weather had him changing his jersey and undershirt twice during the game, and he said the humidity made it difficult for him to grip the ball.

"I tried to force the issue, but it didn't work," Hamels said. "I'm hoping I don't have to do that ever again, but I'm going to have to learn from it and make those adjustments. It's not the last time it's ever going to be humid."

He walked the bases loaded with two outs in the second inning. He would have finished the inning unscathed, except Phillies third baseman Mike Fontenot let a routine ground ball from Braves starter Ben Sheets roll between his legs to allow a run to score and tie the game at 1. Michael Bourn followed with a single to left to score another run and make it 2-0.

"We got Cole on an off night," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "I don't think I've ever seen him walk [six] in a game. That's very uncharacteristic, but we took advantage of it. The error helped there in the second to kind of get us on top."

Hamels walked Paul Janish with one out in the fourth inning for his fifth walk of the game. It tied a career high. Hamels had walked five batters previously three times, but not since June 2007.

He walked Jason Heyward with one out in the fifth to set a new career high. Jones followed with a ground-rule double to put runners on second and third, and two batters later, Brian McCann crushed a 1-0 fastball to center field for a three-run home run to hand the Braves a 5-1 lead.

McCann has homered in each of the six games he has played against the Phillies this season, becoming the only player to hit a home run in six consecutive games against the club. He is hitting .346 (9-for-26) with six homers and 16 RBIs against them.

The Phillies had nothing going offensively, except for the run they scored in the first inning against Sheets, who entered with a 12-inning scoreless streak, on Shane Victorino's RBI double. Sheets finished six innings with only the one run allowed on six hits, improving to 3-0 on his comeback from Tommy John surgery.

The Phillies had four late-inning comeback victories this week, but they were reminded Friday that the Braves' bullpen is a bit better than the Brewers' bullpen.

"We're going to have to play better than that," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's all I can say. We're going to have to play better than that."

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