PHILADELPHIA - A pop fly soared above the pitcher's mound during the top of the sixth inning Friday night.
Phillies ace Cole Hamels stretched out his arms seeking help from his teammates.
The gesture could also have symbolized Hamels' search for answers. He is in the midst of a perplexing season, and if it continues this way, the Phillies might never contend for a playoff spot.
Hamels blew a three-run lead as the New York Mets beat Philadelphia 4-3 before 40,062 fans at Citizens Bank Park. Hamels walked three and allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. He fell to 2-11 with a 4.50 ERA.
"It was a game we could have seized," Hamels said. "It was a good opportunity. I wasn't able to take care of what I needed to take care of. That's my fault."
Hamels' 11 losses tie his career high. He is the first Phillies pitcher to lose 11 games before July since Claude Passeau and Wayne LaMaster did so in 1937. The Phillies finished 61-92-2 that season.
"You have to create an illusion (of success)," Hamels said. "You definitely have to know how to move past it. I really don't follow the numbers maybe as much as I would in the past. This year I focus on how I feel mentally and physically, getting prepared for the team and going out there and trying to execute."
The Phillies are 2-14 in Hamels' 16 starts. The Phillies (35-39) began Friday 7 games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
If the Phillies had won just half of Hamels' starts, they would be 41-33 and right behind the Braves.
"I've had good games where I've been feeling really good," Hamels said, "and haven't gotten the reward. Then I've had games where I'm struggling, and I need a pick-me-up and that hasn't been there either."
Hamels has pitched well in some games only to be a victim of low-run support. The Phillies have scored two runs or less in eight of his starts - all defeats.
But that wasn't the case Friday night.
The Phillies scored three runs in the bottom of the second to take a 3-0 lead. Ryan Howard's and Domonic Brown's back-to-back doubles produced a run and roars from the fans.
The Phillies had their regular lineup on the field for the first time since May as Chase Utley (0-for-5) returned from a strained oblique.
Hamels struggled to throw strikes.
Just 64 of his 104 pitches were strikes.
"I just wasn't getting ahead of hitters," Hamels said. "The couple of walks that I had caused some issues. They seem to always do that. When you're pitching behind in the count, that's when you're going to leave the ball over the middle."
Hamels' outing was especially frustrating because it came against the Mets, who began Friday ranked No. 12 in the 15-team NL in runs scored. New York also ranked last in the league with a .227 batting average.
Hamels did not allow a hit in the first three innings. But the Mets tied the game in the top of the fifth inning on Eric Young Jr.'s two-run single. New York took the lead on rookie Juan Lagares' RBI double in the top of the sixth inning.
Lagares entered the game with a .211 batting average.
"He's having a tough time," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Hamels. "When he does pitch well, we don't score for him. But at the same time, he had games where he gives up runs and gets hurt by small hitters."
This is the first season of the six-year, $144 million contract Hamels signed last summer.
Could he be trying to live up the money?
Hamels, almost unbelievably, is more than halfway to 20 losses.
The only consolation for him is that the list of pitchers to lose 20 games in a season includes some of the game's best.
Hall of Famer Steve Carlton was the last Phillies pitcher to lose 20 games in a season. He finished 13-20 in 1973.
Of no consolation to Phillies fans is that Philadelphia finished 71-91 and in last place that season.
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