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BILL SHAIKIN / ON BASEBALL

Cole Hamels and the league are all wet in this one

The left-hander, who was the darling of last season's World Series run by the Phillies, isn't the same pitcher. Meanwhile, baseball continues to mistreat its paying customers.

November 01, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

PHILADELPHIA — If the Philadelphia Phillies lose this World Series, the autopsy will pinpoint one pitch.

Cole Hamels threw it. Andy Pettitte hit it.

The pitcher, off the pitcher.

Hamels, the golden child of last year's playoffs, a mere mortal now.

Here's the pitch: Fifth inning, Phillies leading, Hamels cruising. The Yankees, the mighty Yankees, had all of two hits at that point. One on and one out, with Pettitte at the plate.

Hamels assumed bunt. He looped a 73-mph curve over the plate. He hung it, and Pettitte poked it into center field for a single. Tie score.

"I really didn't anticipate a pitcher swinging early in the count, not an off-speed pitch," Hamels said. "I learned the hard way."

And then Hamels crashed, so fast you could have missed it with a quick trip to the refrigerator.

On the next pitch, Derek Jeter singled. Two pitches later, Johnny Damon doubled home Pettitte and Jeter, and the Yankees had the lead for good. Mark Teixeira walked, and Hamels was done.

"That's been the story of my whole season," he said. "I can cruise through batters and, then, boom!

"I don't hit a small speed bump. I hit a big one."

In two starts in last year's World Series, Hamels gave up four runs. In two innings on Saturday, he gave up five.

His postseason earned-run average: 1.80 last year, 7.58 this year.

The Phillies did not need a shutout out of Hamels. They needed him to take a deep breath, to rally himself after Pettitte's single, to keep the score tied. He could not, and so this start might have been his last this season.

Hamels did not acquit himself well, but neither did the commissioner's office.

This was not a night fit for baseball, let alone championship baseball.

There always will be weather issues in October and, as of today, in November. The owners don't want to shorten the season, because fewer home games means less revenue.

Fox wants to extend the postseason to maximize weeknight games in the World Series, and prime-time ratings mean more revenue for owners.

We get all that. What we do not get is why baseball repeatedly treats its paying customers with such disdain.

The skies opened up after batting practice on Saturday, about 7:20 p.m. The grounds crew quickly covered the field, and we waited.

The fans, some of whom paid $250 at face value, got no updates, about how long the rain might be expected to continue or when the game might start.

At 8:20, fans watching on Fox found out that baseball officials expected the rain would stop within half an hour. The fans standing, dripping and waiting out the rain heard nothing.

They heard nothing until 8:50, when the decision was made to start about 9:15. Baseball officials said they had nothing to announce before then, but try telling that to a pilot sitting on a runway, with a plane full of paying customers, waiting an hour and a half for clearance to take off.

Oh, and the rain never stopped. The forecast called this: The heavy rain would stop but not all the rain. The forecast also called this: No rain today, Monday or Tuesday, a clear window for Games 3, 4 and 5. Yet baseball persisted in literally soaking its paying customers.

To recap, then: The start of the game was delayed 80 minutes. The rain continued through the game, on and off, sometimes light, sometimes not, and fairly hard over the final two innings.

The game started at 9:17 p.m. and ended at 12:42 a.m. This was an improvement over Game 3 here last year, another rainy debacle, when the game started at 10:06 p.m. and ended at 1:47 a.m.

The Phillies won that game, so the fans went home damp but happy. The Phillies lost this game, so the fans went home with puddles in their shoes and CC Sabathia in their heads.

The Yankees' big guy throws tonight. If he wins, the Yankees could do their victory dance on the Phillies' field on Monday.

Hey, at least it should be dry.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

--

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

GAME 4 STARTING PITCHERS

*--* Tonight, 5:15 REGULAR POSTSEASON SERIES SEASON OPPONENT TV: Channel W-L ERA W-L ERA W-L ERA 11 CC SABATHIA 19-8 3.37 3-1 1.52 0-0 3.38 JOE BLANTON 12-8 4.05 0-0 4.66 0-0 0.00 *--*

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