Cole Hamels explains frustration, discusses future

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ST. LOUIS — Cole Hamels wants his team to win games.

He wants to see W’s next to his name in the box score after he pitches.

These things haven’t happened enough for Hamels this season or last. The left-hander admits that it’s frustrating, and sometimes the frustration is so scalding that he just has to get away from it all.

That’s why he did not speak with reporters after absorbing a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday. Hamels showered, dressed and angrily walked past reporters saying that, “No,” he would not be stopping to chat (see story).

A cooler Hamels spoke with CSNPhilly.com after Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Cardinals.

The pitcher touched on a variety of topics, including the coming homestand, the team’s bid to become a serious contender in the NL East, and his future with the club should it enter a rebuilding mode.

But first he talked about Saturday’s loss and his decision to skip postgame interviews.

“I was really just trying to get all of my anger out,” he said.

Hamels walked five batters in the game and two of those walks became runs, including the tie-breaker in the eighth inning. Matt Holliday doubled home the run on a 2-2 changeup. Hamels was not happy with his execution of the pitch.

“I want to win,” he said. “I want to give the team an opportunity to win every time, and when you don’t win it kind of builds up over time, especially after throwing that one pitch (to Holliday).

“I know the walks really hurt me. Both the runs that scored were on guys I walked. So I think I was a little frustrated because I was trying to be a little too fine to the leadoff hitters when I should have just went right after them. That put me in a bad situation where I had to be even more fine. Over time, that builds up your pitch count and your stress level and each pitch and each inning kind of gets to you and all of a sudden it just explodes and, ‘Game over.’ That was kind of the thing.

“When you have (Adam) Wainwright out there dealing, one mistake is the game.”

Hamels dismissed the notion that he was unhappy with catcher Carlos Ruiz during the game. He said the two often vary their signals during a game and he had a glitch processing the sequence of signs from Ruiz.

“We were on the same page the whole time,” Hamels said. “It was just a matter of two bad pitches that I wasn’t able to make.”

Clearly, Hamels put the loss on himself, but he did pitch well enough to win — had he gotten some run support. He pitched one-run ball through seven innings.

Hamels has pitched to a 1.66 ERA in his last nine starts — third-best in the majors over that span — but is just 2-2 in those games. His team is 4-5.

Dating to early last season, 34 of Hamels’ last 45 outings have been quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs), and he is just 16-18 in those games largely because his club has averaged just 3.26 runs behind him in those 34 games.

That would frustrate anybody.

“It’s tough,” Hamels said. “I saw (the Cubs’ Jeff) Samardzjia dealing with it for the first two months of the season. It’s just a situation where it is what it is. You just have to go out and pitch and hopefully good things come.

“I’m going to keep putting in the highest effort level that I possibly can in hopes that everyone else will either follow or things will transpire in a better way.”

Hamels’ frustration raises some natural questions:

He had the chance to become a free agent two winters ago and sign with a sure-fire contender. (He opted for a six-year, $144 million contract extension to stay in Philadelphia.) Two years later, is he happy as a Phillie?

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s kind of the choice that I made knowing they made a promise that we were going to continue to try to win. So as long as they uphold that, then I like pitching in Philly.”

The Phillies want to win. They pushed the payroll over $180 million (third-highest in the majors) to sign A.J. Burnett for $16 million at the start of spring training. That vouches for their commitment to winning.

“I think they’re trying to (win),” Hamels said. “I don’t think they’re giving up. And I know we have great guys on the team. I don’t think it’s really an organizational type thing; it’s the individual players. We all need to step up.”

Despite a losing record, the Phillies are just five games back in the NL East. But if they falter in the coming weeks, management could trade away some players and embark on a rebuilding course.

How would that sit with Hamels, who signed on to win? Well, he hinted that he’d have to re-think his long-term future with the club if that happens.

“Then it’s a different situation,” he said of a potential rebuilding effort. “And I think you kind of have to look at it in a different way because your careers are only so long. Your good years only last so long. You want to make them count.

“I want to make them count here because I love winning in Philly and I want to be able to do it again. That was kind of the whole initiative when we signed back, that we were going to be able to do it again, so I have faith in guys like Chase (Utley) and Jimmy (Rollins), the guys that are playing. I know Cliff (Lee), every time he goes out he plays to win, so we still have guys that believe and want to go and win, but this next month is huge.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the organization to make those decisions. But as long as they know I go out every fifth day to win, then I think that’s all they can really count on. That’s me being accountable.”

The Phillies dulled the talk of breaking up the team and rebuilding with a 5-2 road trip that ended Sunday. They can keep quieting it with a good homestand. It begins Monday night. Eight games against NL East foes. Win and you move up in the standings quickly. Lose and you can become entombed in the basement of the division.

“It’s huge with the way it’s been so close,” Hamels said of the homestand and the division. “Luckily, without not even having a winning record right now, everything is within our grasp, so it’s very important to come out and come out firing.

“From a pitching standpoint and a hitting standpoint, we have to come out and really go after these guys because otherwise they’re just going to take it from us and we’re going to be sitting back in the dust.”

Travis d’Arnaud’s position in Wednesday’s box score read “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B”

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The Mets had to scratch both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores an hour before Wednesday’s game against the Yankees due to ribcage injuries, so Travis d'Arnaud — normally a catcher — borrowed David Wright‘s glove and played third base for the first time in his career. He had played some third base in spring training, but as far as an official professional game goes, he’s never been there.

The first two batters the Yankees sent up to the plate in the first inning were left-handed. But when the right-handed Aaron Judge came up, manager Terry Collins swapped second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera with d’Arnaud. It became a thing. The two swapped once more in the first inning, three times in the second, once in the third, five times in the fourth, once in the fifth, three times in the sixth, four times in the seventh, once in the eighth, and twice in the ninth. It worked, as d’Arnaud didn’t have an opportunity to make a play until catching Todd Frazier‘s pop-up for the first out of the ninth inning — as a second baseman. Cabrera had a handful of opportunities, including immediately after having swapped with d’Arnaud.

The Mets lost 5-3. At the plate, d’Arnaud went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. Cabrera was 1-for-4.

Matt Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini are being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas so the Mets don’t have to do the “3B-2B shenanigans,” as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo put it, again.

John Lackey stole the first base of his career

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Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.

Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.

Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.

Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.