Who knew that in only his second major league start, King Cole would be called upon to stop a modest, yet troubling, losing streak? The Phils have dropped two straight walk-off games in Milwaukee, last night on bad pitching and the night before on bad throwing by a pitcher. The bullpen has returned to the top of the list of worries, followed closely by the god-awful bench, injuries, and Gavin Floyd. The offense saved itself last night from being including on that list by stringing together a few hits to score three in the top of the ninth. Last year, it seemed the criticism of the Phils' late-inning nonchalance never ended. One year later, the squad has the Cardiac Kids thing down, even if it doesn't always result in a W. A win that is, not a second term, second generation president. Just wanted to clear that up.
So, this afternoon, Cole Hamels takes the mound against [insert Brewers left-handed replacement starter with a 9 ERA here.] Where have all these southpaw pitchers come from? Looks like the book is out and on the market on the Phils: can't hit lefties, worst in the NL with RiSP, worst hitting starting rotation, Van-Damme-it's-weak bench, and free-swinging leadoff guy in a huge slump. Last night's installment of "This Is Your Lefty," saw some guy send down 6 of 6 in the late innings before former Phils Rule 5-er Derrick Turnbow came in and flippin' struggled.
Currently, the vaunted offense is not so vaunted, injuries or no injuries. So, in the interim, we've been treated to some good pitching. Until the middle of sixth inning last night, that is. Gavin Floyd plunked the leadoff batter in the first, then surrendered a solo HR after getting a DP. As with his outing against the Mets, he then turned bulldog and sat down 12 straight at one point. In the 6th, however, he allowed a baserunner and then a string of hits, before leaving the job of plating runners to Rheal Cormier and his fat-part-of-the-bat non-bender. Cormier's first pitch to Prince Fielder was sharp and Fielder flailed at it. Every pitch after that? Not so good. A string of doubles later, plus a subpar inning by Geoff Geary in the 7th and the Phils were in a hole. Thanks to Arthur Rhodes and his traveling circlus of balls outside the strikezone in the 9th, the comeback proved to be superfluous.
Floyd is a bit of an enigma at this point. Fasano insists that he will get better now that he's using a two seamer, but we still see a two-pitch pitcher without the benefit of consistent location. While Floyd's command was a lot closer to acceptable last night, his pitching from the stretch was not. His troubles in the 6th innings all seemed to stem from the sudden change in delivery. Not having to deal with baserunners for four innings showed that the former first-rounder can handle a potent lineup and get into a groove. His lack of command from the stretch and non-existent changeup (the over-under on how many he threw last night is "one" -- which do you want) expose his very much work-in-progress status.
As mentioned only a few posts ago, the team cannot suffer a letdown during this stretch of baseball if it hopes to hang with the Mets all season. Losing two of three to the Brewers is not the end of the world -- the Mets just did it last week -- but getting swept could be a catastrophe by the time the Red Sox, Mets, and Brewers again stop by in the next two weeks. The legend of Cole Hamels may be ready to be written -- nay, already written -- but the demands on him at this point are kind of silly. This team, despite a nice run lately, is deeply flawed. It is still streaky, still deficient in some critical offensive areas, still undependable on the mound in the middle innings, and still perpetually a man short in situation after situation. Some moves have got to be made soon. Dare we say it? The bench needs one of those whatshumacallits... "professional hitters".
In the meantime, it don't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Can (should?) a 22-year-old rookie be today's shelter from the storm?