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Hamels still struggling

He has yet to find postseason form

Phillies starter Cole Hamels took care of Johnny Damon and the Yankees in early innings before unraveling in the fifth. Phillies starter Cole Hamels took care of Johnny Damon and the Yankees in early innings before unraveling in the fifth. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 1, 2009

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PHILADELPHIA - Cole Hamels took a no-hitter into the fourth inning last night and the sellout crowd of towel-waving fans at Citizens Bank Park desperately wanted to believe the lefthander had finally regained the form he showed in the postseason a year ago.

Hamels won four games last October, allowing only seven earned runs over five playoff starts and was one of the biggest reasons the Phillies won the World Series.

But Hamels is a different pitcher this season and his struggles continued in Game 3 of the World Series last night as the Yankees beat the Phillies 8-5.

The 25-year-old allowed five runs on five hits before being pulled from the game in the fifth inning. Hamels is 1-2 with a 7.58 ERA in four postseason starts. He has gone beyond the fifth inning once and opponents have hit .316 against him with seven home runs.

“It has been tough for him,’’ Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “But I don’t question his toughness.’’

The Phillies took a quick 3-0 lead against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte in the second inning. But Hamels could not hold the lead as the Yankees battered him their second time through the order. After getting the first out in the top of the fourth inning, seven of the 10 batters reached base and five of them scored. When Manuel came to take him out of the game, many in the crowd booed.

“I don’t hit a small speed bump, I hit a big one,’’ Hamels said, who in a span of four pitches allowed an RBI single by Andy Pettitte, a single by Derek Jeter, and a two-run double by Mark Teixeira.

Hamels indicated that he was affected by the flu that has been going around the Philadelphia clubhouse.

“That’s no excuse,’’ he said. “You have a job to do and you have to go out there and do it. I felt good enough to pitch better than I pitched.’’

For the Phillies, the loss seemed to come as a shock based on the tenor in the clubhouse afterward. The toughest place for an opposing team to win a playoff game in the last two seasons hasn’t been Angel Stadium, Fenway Park, or Yankee Stadium. It has been Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies went into Game 3 having won 11 of their last 12 postseason home games, outscoring the opposition by 40 runs.

“We put up five runs and most times, you think that would be enough in the postseason,’’ Hamels said. Unfortunately, I gave up five. That puts you in a bind and that doesn’t help your team out when you can’t get through the fifth inning.’’

No matter how the season ends for Philadelphia, Hamels will have a winter of reassessment. Expected to be an ace, he was 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in the regular season and last night put his team down, “It’s been an interesting year to kind of see that happen,’’ Hamels said. “You can study a hitter or understand how baseball works and it still surprises you at times. I guess I still have a lot to experience.’’

What is unsettling for the Phillies is that Hamels would be lined up to start a possible Game 7.

“I really do hope I have that opportunity. It’s one of those games you can redeem yourself. [Last night] was not the kind of game you want to have your season end with. I hope my teammates believe in me and want me out there.’’

Manuel said he would not hesitate to start Hamels again. But it may not be a given.

“We’ll see how the series goes,’’ he said.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.

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