Who can blame us if we were getting a little ahead of ourselves? The hits were falling in, the fielders could do no wrong, and the pitchers were hitting their spots. After months if not years of mostly desultory play, the Phils were exciting to watch and we, the fans, were throwing caution to the wind.
Then came yesterday’s reminder that the pitching staff is still a work in progress, especially considering the mix of youth, age, rehabilitation and erratic behavior.
You have to say one thing about rookie Cole Hamels’ performance in Chicago, if he doesn’t have it, he makes that clear from the get-go. When Hamels has all three pitches working he is a sight to behold; when he doesn’t, he looks like Ramon Hernandez in Detroit or Pittsburgh. Yesterday was home run derby day.
Nine runs, six earned, in two innings. Balls flying all around Wrigley Field. The Cubbies were jumping on everything he threw up there. I found myself thinking those guys must be sitting in their dugout wondering what all the fuss was about. This is the kid whom everyone is talking about?
Hamels has melted down before and bounced back. I am not worried about this latest setback because the kid has tremendous confidence and ability. But we have to remember he is also a year removed from mid-level minor league ball and still has a lot to learn. Could the pitch selection have been better? Probably. Even Chris Coste admitted as much after the game. Still, the bigger problems were Hamels’ command, especially of his breaking ball, which was utterly absent, and a fastball that had nothing special on it. As everyone is fond of reminding us, major league batters can hit the fastball.
Now, frankly, comes the bigger test: Randy Wolf faces the Mets tonight in New York. Wolf’s last outing was decent, nothing more, and included two home runs allowed. Greater things may be expected of Wolf now that he has shown his elbow is healthy than they are currently of Hamels, who is by definition still developing. Wolf will be facing a resurgent Carlos Delgado, who has four home runs in his last few games, as well as all the other bangers in the Mets formidable lineup.
Reality has a way of coming right back at you with little or no warning. Fine. All the same, it has been a helluva lot of fun to watch these guys.