Rockies pitching held the Phillies to four hits, including one by pitcher Cole Hamels, as the visiting Wild Card winners cruised to a 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Beerleaguer breakdown: There isn’t much to add by way of post-game analysis because the problem was pretty clear. The top of the lineup went 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts, including three by Ryan Howard and four by Chase Utley, reportedly only the second time in his career that’s happened.
Jeff Francis earned the win by pitching six strong innings, giving up solo shots to Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell for the only Phillies runs on the afternoon. Francis kept the lineup off-balance with a lot of soft stuff, actually making some good hitters look rather foolish. The Rockies bullpen sealed the deal with three shutout frames.
My long-sleeve undershirt theory: Here’s a ringside observation of Cole Hamels' meltdown inning. I saw a pitcher who not only missed his spots, but someone who looked completely gassed doing it. The sun was deceptively intense, too concentrated for the long-sleeve undershirt he was wearing. I actually said something at the beginning of the game about it, how it was too hot to be dressed that way. Hamels finally plodded through the second frame with slow stuff, drenched in sweat and looking like a guy who’d just pitched nine in the dead of summer. Next inning, no undershirt. He took it off. He cruised the rest of the way.
UPDATE: Theory is now fact. Hamels' undershirt indeed factored into his meltdown frame in the second inning. From Jim Salisbury's game summary:
"When Hamels came out for the third inning, the long sleeves were gone and he reeled off four straight 1-2-3 innings.
"I don't want to use that as an excuse," Hamels said of his decision to wear long sleeves.
But . . .
"It was definitely hot," he said. ". . . When it gets hot, I'm going to sweat a little more, and when I was throwing my change-up the sweat was dripping down in my hand and I wasn't able to get a good grip on it. A lot of change-ups in the second inning, they took, and they obviously were not strikes."
So the sleeves hurt?
"A little," Hamels said. "I realized it so I changed them as fast as I could because I didn't want to have another inning like that."
Can a sweaty hand affect a pitcher's control?
"Absolutely," Myers said. "When it's really humid, I've had trouble gripping my curveball. I never liked using rosin because it was like baby powder and my hand would feel slick. Now I put the rosin on my wrist and when the sweat runs down my hand gets tacky."
-- Wes Helms made the best defensive play of the afternoon.
-- The shadows seem to last from the first through the fourth. They evened out at about the same time Rowand and Burrell hit their shots. Considering how shockingly bad several good hitters like Utley looked, I would assume they were a factor.