Wardrobe malfunction costs Hamels
Phillies starter rebounds after shedding uncomfortable shirt
PHILADELPHIA -- Was Cole Hamels overdressed for the occasion?In hindsight, the 23-year-old Phillies ace says yes. Wearing a long-sleeve red shirt under his white pinstriped jersey, Hamels found himself baking on the mound in an unseasonably high 81-degree and sunny afternoon. The sleeves ultimately became a problem. Sweating profusely in the second inning, Hamels' hands became moist, and it affected the feel of his changeup and breaking ball. The Rockies seized the situation and scored three runs, while forcing Hamels to log 40 pitches in the inning. When the inning ended, Hamels quickly removed the long-sleeve shirt, but the damage was ultimately done as the Rockies held on for a 4-2 win in front of a sellout crowd of 45,655 at Citizens Bank Park. "You know, I don't want to use that as an excuse," Hamels said. "It's something where it was definitely hot out." Understandably, Hamels was making every effort to keep his precious pitching arm warm. He had to battle through a mild left elbow strain that caused him to miss a month. But on a sun-drenched afternoon, the extra shirt made Hamels noticeably less effective. Catcher Carlos Ruiz picked up on it right away. "He was sweating a lot, and he couldn't feel that ball with all the sweat in his hand," Ruiz said. "It was only one inning. Other than that, he threw great." On Wednesday, one uncomfortable inning was enough to put the Phillies in a one-game hole in the best-of-five National League Division Series. "When it gets hot, I'm going to sweat a little more, and when I was throwing my changeup, the sweat was dripping down in my hands," Hamels said. "I wasn't able to get a good grip on the ball. A lot of changeups in the second inning, they took, and they obviously weren't strikes." The Phillies' top pitcher all season, Hamels carried a 15-5 record with a 3.39 ERA into the game. The left-hander was activated off the disabled list on Sept. 18, and his return provided a boost to the club that completed an improbable late-season run to reach the postseason. Hamels ran into immediate trouble in the second when Todd Helton opened with a first-pitch triple. Garrett Atkins' RBI double opened the scoring. Hamels ended up walking three in the inning, including a free pass to Troy Tulowitzki with the bases full to force in a run.
"Going into that inning, my main focus was to throw strikes," Hamels said. "I know those guys are the types of guys that would definitely swing at the first pitch and ambush you."Once his clothing was in order Wednesday, so was his effectiveness. Hamels went on a roll, retiring 13 straight batters before he walked Ryan Spilborghs to open the seventh inning. Still, the lefty retired the next two before manager Charlie Manuel called it a day for his young ace, who finished with 115 pitches, with 72 for strikes. "He had just the one inning when he had a little control problem," reliever Brett Myers said. "But he showed you how good he can be, and how composed he can be as a young guy, to be able to get us into the seventh and rebound from that one inning and concentrate on keeping the game close. "With [our] offense, it can happen any time. Unfortunately it didn't happen today." While he suffered the loss, Hamels' ability to work into the seventh inning certainly took the pressure off the bullpen. "I was definitely focused," Hamels said. "When you go out there, you want to succeed, especially at this sort of level in the spotlight. You know, you can be a little hard on yourself, and I think that's what I do a lot of these cases." As the game progressed, the pitching settled as shadows played a factor in the hitters picking up the pitches. "They are a good ballclub," Myers said of the Rockies. "We have to come out and be aggressive [Thursday]. I think we got a feeling that we need to get on them early like they did us. You saw that when the shadows became a factor later in the game. There were several innings when there was nothing going on [offensively]. They got us in an inning they needed to get us, the second inning, before the shadows came in." From Hamels' standpoint, he was more at ease without his long sleeves. "I didn't want to have another second inning like that," the left-hander said.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.