cole hamels getty

Cole Hamels explains frustration, discusses future


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 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.”

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.

Cubs swat their way past the Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS Game 5

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

During the regular season, the Cubs had the second-best offense in baseball behind the Rockies, averaging 4.99 runs per game. It was the best after debiting the Rockies for playing in Coors Field. There was no way, after getting shut out in NLCS Games 2 and 3, that the offense was going to stay dormant much longer. They broke out for 10 runs in a Game 4 victory on Wednesday night. They scored eight more to beat the Dodgers 8-4 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 NLCS lead.

The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff batter Dexter Fowler greeted Kenta Maeda with a single to center field. He’d come around to score on a one-out double by Anthony Rizzo who, like teammate Addison Russell, hadn’t hit much until breaking out in Game 4.

Starter Jon Lester was able to silence the Dodgers’ offense despite their strategy of attempting bunts and taking big leads, knowing Lester has trouble throwing when it’s not from the pitching rubber. They managed just one run, coming around in the fourth inning to knot the game at 1-1 when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third base, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez ground out.

Ultimately, Lester lasted seven innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. Addison Russell allowed him to leave with a lead, slugging a two-run home run off of reliever Joe Blanton in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie.

The Cubs tacked on plenty of insurance in the top of the eighth against reliever Pedro Baez, which proved to be rather necessary. Russell reached on an error by Baez, Willson Contreras singled, and Albert Almora, Jr. moved both runners up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Dexter Fowler then hit a single to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but Baez didn’t break to cover first base. Gonzalez wasn’t able to beat Fowler to the bag, allowing the Cubs’ fourth run to score. Kris Bryant hit a weak grounder to third base and he was able to beat that out as well, pushing across another run in the process. Anthony Rizzo lined out, but Baez prolonged the inning by walking Ben Zobrist. Ross Stripling relieved Baez, but he served up a bases-clearing double to Javier Baez, making it an 8-1 ballgame. Jason Heyward, as has often been the case, popped up feebly, mercifully ending the inning with the Cubs having hung up a five-spot.

Pedro Strop took over for Lester in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a double to Andrew Toles, then hit Justin Turner to begin the inning. Though Strop was able to induce a ground ball double play from Corey Seager, Carlos Ruiz followed up with a double to left-center to push in a run. Howie Kendrick flied out to send the game to the ninth.

Closer Aroldis Chapman took over with a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Gonzalez, then served up a single to Yasiel Puig. Joc Pederson grounded out, but Josh Reddick knocked in Gonzalez and moved Puig to third with a single to center. Toles plated Puig with a sacrifice fly, making it 8-4. Turner grounded out to shortstop to end the game, finalizing the victory for the Cubs.

The two clubs will take Friday off to travel back to Chicago. Game 6 will take place at Wrigley Field at 8:00 PM EDT. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers opposite the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.