Cole Hamels took it on the chin, literally and figuratively during the season finale at Citizens Bank Park.
During the second inning, the Braves Tommy LaStella hit a hard chopper off of Hamels jaw. King Cole stayed in the game, which was a microcosm of his frustrating 2014 season.
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“I’m just glad it hit the ground first,” Hamels said. “Because if it hit me right off the bat, I’m not standing here. I’m getting stitched up somewhere.”
The Phillies offense, which never hit the ground running in 2014, failed to support Hamels yet again. Through seven innings, the Phillies had only three hits, two were by Hamels, who were edged 2-1 to the Braves. Hamels was tremendous after giving up a leadoff homer to Emilio Bonifacio and an RBI single to Freddie Freeman.
Hamels, who went eight innings, allowed only one other baserunner, a hit by pitch, after that shaky first.
The Phillies couldn’t give Hamels any support and he finished the forgettable 2014 campaign 9-9, despite a sparkling 2.46 ERA. Hamels is the first starter to finish with an ERA under 2.50, his career best, with a non-winning record.
Give Hamels credit for keeping his chin up despite pitching well enough to win nearly 20 games this season but he failed to secure double digit victories.
Hamels kept a stiff upper lip while accentuating the positive after three miserable seasons and no sign that things will change next season.
“I love playing here,” Hamels said. “Playing in front of these fans is one of the best things I’ve known. It’s an honor to play here.The organization has been nothing but the best. I want to give back what they gave me.”
Hamels is referring to the unbridled joy he experienced from 2007 through 2011, which peaked six-years ago next month when the franchise won its second World Series title in its mostly moribund history.
“I’ll never forget that,” Hamels said. “It was amazing.”
The San Diego native, who grew up admiring Tony Gwynn for his sweet stroke and his loyalty to the Padres, reiterated how he would like to stay with the only franchise he’s known.
It’s difficult to imagine trading Hamels but changes appear imminent, especially with an offense that has been lifeless at times. You would never guess it by his record but Hamels had his finest season of his enviable career.
“You look at that record and the lack of run support he got and I look at that as wasted opportunities for wins,” Ryne Sansberg said.
Looking at the numbers, even with missing the first month of the season, Hamels’ pitched well enough to win nine more games with an average offense. That brings the win total for the club to 82 wins and wild card contention.
But the Phillies offense was MIA for stretches during the season, which handicapped a team with an ace like Hamels and a beast out of the bullpen, which is Ken Giles The bats just weren’t there.
“That’s something that’s got to turn sometime,” Sandberg said. “I think it’s about addressing the offense, addressing the potential guys in the offense, in the offseason.
Considering the lack of bats in the minors and the unimpressive free agent class, the Phillies have a challenging offseason. The franchise and fans should be thrilled that Hamels isn’t beating the drum for a trade ala Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen.