The mystery of Cole Hamels 2010 deepened Friday night. Through three innings, the Phillies starter was in complete control, holding the Diamondbacks scoreless on one hit while fanning four. Then he cratered, allowing four homers over the next two innings as a 2-0 Phils lead turned into a 6-2 deficit. With the Phils unable to do much against not-quite-former-teammate Kris Benson, Hamels wound up on the losing end of a 7-4 loss in Phoenix.
The lineup's feebleness against Benson was perhaps even more baffling than Hamels' inconsistency. Tattooed for 23 runs (21 earned) in 22.1 innings for Texas last season after spending 2008 with the Phils' triple-A team, Benson allowed just two runs in six innings in his first start of 2010 against the Padres last weekend, but his four walks against one strikeout bode well for a Phils lineup that had effectively worked counts against three superior Braves starters in a just-completed series win at Atlanta. The discipline deserted them tonight, however, as Benson earned his first win of the season while allowing eight hits and three runs, two earned, in six innings. He struck out five and walked none, as the Phils' hitters consistently chased offspeed offerings out of the strike zone. It has now been five full games since the last Phillies home run, hit by Jayson Werth in the ninth inning of Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Marlins.
The unearned run Benson allowed, which briefly gave the Phils a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, came on an extremely rare four-base error. Werth seemed to fly out to deep center field--but as Arizona's Chris Young transferred the ball from his glove to his throwing hand, it squirted free and rolled away. Werth had barely finished circling the bases when Arizona manager A.J. Hinch came out to argue, ultimately getting ejected. Perhaps this was what energized the D'backs offense: in the bottom of the fourth, Justin Upton blooped a single in front of Mark Reynolds' game-tying homer to left field. Adam LaRoche immediately followed with a solo shot to right; after Young singled and Cole Gillespie struck out, Hamels gave up a third home run of the inning to #8 hitter Chris Snyder. Kelly Johnson stretched the lead to 6-2 leading off the fifth; later, he would greet J.C. Romero in the lefty reliever's season debut with his second homer of the game and season.
The series continues tomorrow as Nelson Figueroa makes an emergency start in place of injured J.A. Happ against Arizona's Ian Kennedy.