Cole Hamels didn't look too dang good in the Phils' 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
In his third start of the season, Hamels was not sharp. He gave up five earned runs on 10 hits and one walk with six strikeouts against a pretty good Blue Jays lineup. For the season, he is 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA, 4.43 FIP, and a WHIP of 1.86.
His location was off all night. You're not supposed to throw guys like Edwin Encarnacion a fastball right down the middle because, when you do, they hit them to New Jersey. When you're facing Colby Rasmus, and Carlos Ruiz sets up low-and-away, off the plate, you're not supposed to throw it down and in because, as a left-handed hitter, Rasmus will take that pitch and kill a small family of five sitting in the center field seats with it.
Hamels left too many pitches out and over the plate last night, and Toronto made him pay. It was certainly a disappointing performance, but it should not be one that causes anyone to seriously worry yet.
Cole has always been a slow starter. His career ERA in April is 4.05. The next-worst month is June, at 3.62. Last year, it took him even longer than normal to get started, posting an ERA of 4.86 in 12 starts in April and May. However, he turned it around in a big way starting in June, posting a 2.96 ERA in his last 21 starts last year.
Sure, some of Hamels' peripherals have not been pretty in his three starts this year. He is striking out a career-low percentage of hitters so far (18.3%) and is walking a higher-than-normal number for him (9.1%). Opponents are batting .348 against him, he has a ground ball rate of 38.9% and a line drive rate of 24.1%, both of which are off career norms.
However, breathe easy. It's more likely than not these numbers, just as they have in every other year he's been a Major Leaguer, will rebound.
There's no doubt the Phillies desperately need Hamels to pitch better than he has in his first three starts of the season. Any chance they have of competing for a playoff spot depends on it.
But take heart. The chances are more than good you'll see Cole bounce back from a slow start and deliver.
Just as he always has.