The Philadelphia Phillies really have only Cole Hamels to brag about this season. As such, Phillies fans like myself can at least still get excited by his final starts of the year, while we wait for the rest of it to end. Yet even Hamels isn't immune to Philadelphia's rotten luck after all, as he had to be scratched before facing the New York Mets on Aug. 29.
Those who went to Citizens Bank Park to cheer for Hamels instead had to see call-up Tyler Cloyd, since Hamels was sidelined with a gastrointestinal illness, according to the Associated Press. Yet Cloyd's major league debut was a lot like a typical Hamels start - in that he kept Philadelphia within reach but didn't get enough support to win in a 3-2 loss .
Given Cloyd's 15-1 record in minor league play this season, it was perhaps inevitable that he'd get a shot sometime in September. Instead, he was sent up ahead of schedule and lost for just the second time in 2012, although he only gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings. Unfortunately, two of those runs came on a Lucas Duda home run in the third inning, which was the last offense from anyone for the entire night.
After the Phillies got a run in both the first and second inning, and after the Mets got that go-ahead homer, it looked like this could be a slugfest. But both teams were completely shut down for the next six-plus innings, which left Philadelphia out of luck. For the second straight night against New York, all of the home team's offense came way too early.
It is a joke that the Phillies had their way with the Washington Nationals' top ranked pitching staff all last weekend, yet can't hit much off the Mets - although they aren't even sending R.A. Dickey out against them. But in this joke of a season, one step forward is usually the prelude to two steps back.
Not only are the Phillies making the Mets look good for the first time in ages, they couldn't even send their one unequivocal star left out to face them. Since Hamels only had an illness, he should be fine for future starts - but it would be the most bitter and fitting ending possible for 2012 if he suffered a worse injury later.
Yet for his absence on Aug. 29, it was almost as though he really was still around, in that the Philadelphia bats let down someone else in his pitching spot. The Phillies do have to hope that Cloyd could be a Hamels of the future - but if they can't give enough run support to either of them, it won't matter much.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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- Cole Hamels