It was there for the taking, but the letdowns have become all too familiar. The Phillies fell short when they needed it most.
Atlanta took the middle game of the set, 6-3, striking for three in the 11th inning to seal the deal. Silent bats showed up again as Cole Hamels did his best to keep the Phils within striking distance all night long.
Hamels came within one strike of making this a relatively dominant performance. Instead, he allowed a seventh inning home run to Martin Prado, giving Atlanta a 3-2 lead. His final line would look like it always does – it left you wanting more. And it needed to be more. Hamels went seven innings, allowing those three runs while striking out eight. It was so close to being an outing that makes you definitively say, “Cole Hamels is an excellent number two starter.” However, the homer run lets doubt seep its way back in.
On the other side of the ball, the sticks were mostly silent. Yeah, they put up three on the board, but for 11 innings they could manage only three hits – three measly hits. Two came against Jair Jurrjens, who had been on the DL a week prior. Both hits, luckily, cost the Braves dearly, and allowed for the Phils to stay competitive.
The first was a line drive home run off the bat of Raul Ibanez in the first inning. The other was a Ryan Howard opposite field blast that barely stayed in the park. Howard ended up on third base with after Matt Diaz failed to corral the ball and lost it as it kicked away from him. Ryan would stay glued to that base for the rest of the inning, accentuating a puzzling trend on offense.
With no outs and a runner at third, Jayson Werth, Ben Francisco (pinch hitting for Greg Dobbs), and Wilson Valdez were unable to push a runner 90 feet for the go-ahead run. Werth had the first crack at it and simply stood there, watching five pitches pass him, including strike three. The Bearded One used to relish that sort of situation. No more. Werth is hitting just .176 with runners in scoring position this year, including .167 with a runner on third with nobody out. That’s a spot where Werth needs to connect.
In the 11th inning, the bullpen finally met its match as David Herndon crumbled for two runs, followed by Mike Zagurski allowing one more on an Eric Hinske homer. Trouble has been synonymous with the bullpen recently after it had been a source of stability for roughly two months. Now, it’s just all over the place. As is the offense.
The only constant has been the starting pitching. And while maybe it wasn’t as dominating as it could have been, Cole Hamels’s performance was absolutely enough to lead his club to victory. It’s just that three hits won’t get you there.
With a chance to close the NL East gap to just three games, the Phils dropped a winnable game and will now have to fight to stay within a reasonable distance of Atlanta.