The Philadelphia Phillies had a bit of a statement series on their hands with the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. Phillies fans like myself hoped to make a good showing at home against the best team in the National League - or at least not get embarrassed. Yet three straight one-run losses set off the worst embarrassment yet for Philadelphia in this embarrassing season - to the point where not even Cole Hamels could salvage anything from it.
Hamels bailed the Phillies out from getting swept twice by the Washington Nationals, and was on his way to saving them against the Dodgers with an early 3-0 lead. However, even that isn't enough these days, as Los Angeles rallied back against their potential future ace and then poured it on late for an 8-3 victory on June 7.
Given how the first two months of the year went, it seemed that no matter how bad the Phillies were, they were safe for a day with Hamels. At the least, they were safe as long as Hamels didn't have to pitch against the Marlins, who gave him his only two losses. But in this case, he was facing the Dodgers - months before he might face them at the negotiating table in the offseason when his contract expires.
Hamels showed the Dodgers early on why they may wind up throwing $150 million at him this fall, as he shut them down by and large for the first five innings. In the meantime, the Philadelphia offense showed up just long enough to give him a 3-0 lead, with all three runs coming in the third. Yet Los Angeles stabilized itself with a run in the fourth before breaking out in the sixth with its own three-run spurt.
If even Hamels couldn't protect the Phillies from the Dodgers in this series, then there was no saving them now. As such, once Los Angeles took the lead, it was just a matter of how bad things got from there. Naturally, the ninth inning was the problematic one, as the Dodgers broke the game open with four more runs and five hits off Chad Qualls, who only got one out in the meantime.
Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon couldn't give the Phillies any luck in this four-game stretch, so perhaps it made sense that Hamels couldn't either. And now that Philadelphia knows it can't even count on Hamels all the time against teams other than Miami, this is indeed the low point of the year.
But a four-game sweep at the hands of the NL's best team - which didn't even have Matt Kemp active - a 12-19 home record and a 28-31 last place record overall can do that. What more can happen to put the Phillies in an even worse hole at the moment? After this week, we may find out the answer a lot sooner than anyone in Philadelphia would like.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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