Thanks to ol' buddy Arthur Rhodes, all that stands between the Yankees and a series win in Philadelphia and a split of their southern dip in the NL is Cole Hamels. A tall, slender lefty, the 22-year-old Hamels is the posterboy of pitching prospect hype, having gone 11-3 with a 1.54 ERA, 208 strikeouts and just 88 hits in 152 innings over his first three professional seasons. Of course, all but the final 19 innings in that stretch occurred in A-ball. And then there's the fact that he only made four starts in 2004 due to issues with his pitching elbow.
Hamels started this season back in the Florida State League, but was so dominant he was jumped straight to triple-A, where after three even more impressive outings he was promoted to big league rotation. After holding the Reds scoreless across five innings while striking out seven in his first turn, Hamels looked rather human against the Brewers in his next start, allowing four runs on five hits and four walks in six and a third while striking out five. He then landed on the 15-day DL with a strained left shoulder. Hamels only missed the minimum and has made three starts since returning to action. The good news for the Phillies is that the control issues that have plagued him on occasion throughout his career and over his first two starts (9 BB in 11 1/3 IP) seem to have gone away (5 BB in 14 1/3 IP in June), but his overall results have not responded in kind. Hamels beat the Diamondbacks in his first start off the DL, but lasted just 5 2/3 innings and struck out just two. In his next start he struck out eight, but lasted just five innings and yielded four runs on six hits while taking a loss against the Nationals. In his last turn he was summarily beaten about the head and neck by the Devil Rays, who touched him up for his first two big league homers allowed and a total of six runs (five earned) on seven hits against just three Ks in 3 2/3 IP.
Is Hamels hurt? Was he rushed? Is he just a tad overrated to begin with?
It's unlikely that we'll find the answer to any of those questions tonight as he goes up against Jaret Wright, who's five-inning limit should at least be properly motivated tonight when he's pulled for a pinch-hitter. After a consistent streak in May in which Wright allowed no more than three runs in no less than five innings for six straight starts, Wright has allowed a total of nine runs across his last ten innings. Given his ugly peripherals, it seems reality has caught up to the Yankees' fifth starter. I wouldn't expect to see that trend reverse in the hitters' haven that is Citizen's Bank Park. Let's just hope he keeps enough men off base that he can pitch around "Blastmaster" Ryan Howard. I'll be covering my eyes during those at-bats.