Cole Hamels – full first name Colbert – made his season debut for the Cubs yesterday, and the final line looks thoroughly rough: 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 4 K.
What if it were something instead like … 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K? That’d be a great start, right! Well, the thing is, that line is a closer reflection of what he actually did yesterday. I know we can play the what if this, what if that game all the time in this delightful game of inches, but I’m just saying: if not for a couple egregiously bad missed calls by the home plate umpire yesterday in the 4th inning, Hamels finishes (at least) five innings without giving up that grand slam.
Here are his two walks from the 4th inning – note in particular the final pitch of the first walk, which should have ended the inning (Brooks):
The 4th inning arguably had as many as FOUR missed strikes, all in a single half-inning:
Balls and strikes called that last half inning for Hamels. pic.twitter.com/yWzQLAygzL
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 31, 2019
Hamels, himself, declined to make his performance about the strike zone, telling Jordan Bastian after the game, “I don’t think that really needs to be the focus. I think I’ve done it enough. I have a pretty good perspective of what’s a strike and what’s not, so I just have to kind of stay within myself, because there’s a lot of human error in this game. Even I have it.”
In other words, Hamels is saying he threw strikes, but he’s done this long enough to know that’s just part of the game, and it’s up to him to make the pitches after that. He made a terrible subsequent pitch to Delino Deshields Jr. – forced into the middle of the zone by a full count and the bases loaded – and paid for it.
“If you’re nibbling and not getting those strikes, then they get to zone in,” Hamels said. “Sooner or later, I finally had to throw a pitch down the middle, because I’m not about to walk a guy in in a bases-loaded situation. So, Delino obviously knew what he was looking for and he executed and came away the victor.”
Hamels is such a thoughtful veteran that he’s not going to pin a game on a missed call here or there, especially when he gave up the homer thereafter. And hey, who knows how that game goes even if Hamels cruises through five or six or seven. Eventually the bullpen was going to have to get some outs …
Baseball is such an incredible sport for so many reasons, and one of them is how dramatically a game can swing on just an inch or two here or there, a missed call here or there, a bad pitch here or there. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.