Hamels outdueled by Gonzalez in series closer against Nats
WASHINGTON — There aren’t many hitters who have gotten the best of Cole Hamels on a regular basis during his long, successful career with the Phillies.
Scott Hairston is one of them. The Nationals have kept the aging veteran on their bench this season practically as a hired assassin to vex Hamels when the division rivals play.
Adam LaRoche is another. Few left-handed hitters have extended levels of success against Hamels, but LaRoche has.
Sure enough, those two combined to foil Hamels, as the Nationals avoided a second straight sweep at the hands of the last-place Phillies with a 3-2 win Sunday.
Hairston’s sacrifice fly to the fence in the sixth inning plated the deciding run and LaRoche’s pair a solo homers answered a pair of onerun leads the Phillies had grabbed earlier in the game. For LaRoche, the homers gave him six home runs in 45 career plate appearances against Hamels, the most of any hitter, and his 1.071 OPS against Hamels is the second-highest for any left-handed hitter with 20 or more plate appearances against him.
One of the hitters with five career bombs off Hamels that LaRoche passed atop the list is Hairston, who has made 10 starts this season for the Nationals, four of them against Hamels. Sure enough, he has a hit in every game this season against Hamels and hit two fly balls to the wall Sunday.
“I know,” Hamels said, shaking his head, when asked if it seems Hairston’s existence is based around tormenting him. “When he played for the Padres and Mets he put up some pretty good numbers. I guess I’ll be happy the day he retires.
“I know (Hairston and LaRoche) are going to get their hits. It’s a matter of keeping them in the ballpark ... They just see the ball a little bit better (against him), and that builds confidence, and that can take you a long way. They are going up there thinking they can get a hit, and I’m
out there trying to get them out. So it’s a battle.”
Both the hitter and the pitcher thought Hairston’s sacrifice fly was his sixth career homer against Hamels. Hairston stood and watched it. Hamels motioned to the plate umpire for a new ball. Instead, Grady Sizemore reeled it in with his back pressed against the wall.
“I guess bad wind currents today,” said Hairston, who only has 69 at-bats this season. “Guys with pop, those balls go out ... I guess me standing there pretty much gave it away. I had the mindset to just get the ball to the outfield somehow. If you get it, it will go over the fence, if not it would at least be a sacrifice fly.”
Hairston only had a runner on third to drive in because Ian Desmond had lined a double to left before he stepped in, then dancedoffsecondbaseenoughto getHamels tomakeapickoffmovethat first-baseumpire Chad Fairchild ruled a balk. Hamels did take an awkward hop during the move when his cleatcaughtonthe rubber, buthedidn’t think the move itself was worthy of the call.
“I’ll keep doing it, and if they keep calling it then I guess I have a problem,” Hamels said of the move. “I think it’s something I’ve been doing my whole career. It’s something I guess I need to be more aware of, because there might be a check next to my name when they come in to umpire my games. I’ll try to fix it.
“It’sunfortunatebecausetherunscored. I got lucky with Hairston not hitting a homer, because I know that would’ve been 85 rows deep at our field.”
The Phillies, meanwhile, managed just two runs against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, who had his first walk-free start of a struggling season for the southpaw. One of the Phillies’ runs was unearned, as a reckless throw by Denard Span to third base when Sizemore went from first to third on a Marlon Byrd single allowed him to score in the top of the first.
It seemed that the Phillies might get two runs on the play. Nats third baseman Anthony Rendon threw wildly to the plate in an attempt to get Sizemore and it sailed into thehomedugout. Byrd, by rule, got two bases on the throw out of play, but the umpires ruled that Byrd hadn’t gotten to second base yet.
When Ryne Sandberg attempted to challenge the ruling, he was informed that was not a judgment that could be reversed by replay — even though it seems a very easy call to confirm with a camera view that shows the entire field.
“I couldn’t tell, I had fallen going into second,” Byrd said, although in the locker next to him, JimmyRollins voiced the opinion that the umpires missed it.
Washington Nationals’ Adam LaRoche, center, celebrates his solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels throws during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals.