Hamels made his final start of the season in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Marlins at Marlins Park. He got a no-decision, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings. He might have pitched longer, but with the Phillies trailing by a run in the seventh, Sandberg sent a pinch-hitter to the plate.
That pretty much captures Hamels' season. He finished 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA, but the shoddy won-loss record is partially a byproduct of poor run support. He entered the night 75th out of 81 qualifying pitchers with a 3.53 run support average. Hamels failed to earn his 100th career win but did reach 200 strikeouts for the second consecutive season and third time in four years. He also finished with 220 innings.
"I'm pretty proud of myself for staying healthy and making all of my starts," Hamels said. "Just being accountable, knowing I'm going out there and giving it everything I have. You want to pitch deep in every ballgame, from the very first game of the season to the end, but you know it can be quite complicated, the ups and downs, and you have to know how to balance it.
"I did everything I could have. That's ultimately the learning lesson of staying within yourself and trying to keep a good constant rhythm, and don't get carried away with the things that you can't affect."
The Phillies managed seven hits against Marlins left-hander Brad Hand. They have scored only 18 runs in their last seven games (2.57 per game), and they entered the night 26th in baseball, averaging 3.80 runs per game. They have not homered since Sept. 17, a stretch of seven straight games. It is the second time this season they have gone that long without a home run.
"We have a power shortage right now with extra-base hits and home runs, but we had guys on base," Sandberg said.
Hamels allowed 13 runs in 10 2/3 innings in his first two starts, but he had a 3.22 ERA (75 earned runs in 209 1/3 innings) the rest of the way.
"He's been steady," Sandberg said before the game. "He's really been, besides two or three outings all year, he's been real steady with his stuff. He's been good to go. He's been durable. He's been quality. He's given us a chance to win, maybe all but a couple of games. Just the way he's gone about his business. Very much a leader on the team as far as the staff goes. His work ethic, his attitude, he sets a great tone for the game. I know the defense likes playing behind him. There's things that haven't gone the way it seems on the luck side. It's been one of those years from him."
Hamels, who went 6-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 16 starts from the beginning of July through Wednesday, will be required to have big season for the Phillies to have any chance to return to the postseason next year. Pitching coach Rich Dubee pushed back one of Hamels' starts a couple of days at the beginning of July to give him a mental break.
"I guess it worked," Hamels said. "Going into it, I understood the consequences. I understood what they were doing. I just wasn't staying within myself. My mechanics, staying within the rhythm of the game, I was getting a little carried away with certain things you shouldn't allow yourself to be affected by. Understanding what you can control and what you can't control, that is ultimately the big learning lesson this season."
The Phillies believe they will be better next season with a healthy Ryan Howard and Ben Revere. But that is assuming they will be healthy and productive -- and that everybody else will be healthy and productive, too.
The Phillies tied the game in the seventh. Freddy Galvis singled to right-center field to score Darin Ruf, and Cesar Hernandez singled to right-center to score Kevin Frandsen. But the Marlins scored a run in the eighth when Justin Ruggiano scored on a chopper up the middle. Jimmy Rollins tried to make a tough throw to the plate, but it wasn't in time.
"That was a heck of an attempt [by Rollins]," Sandberg said. "The throw was on [the first-base side] of the plate … but it was the right attempt."
The Phillies packed up and headed to Atlanta for their final four games of the season. After that, they'll scatter for the offseason.
"It's two years in a row," Hamels said of no postseason. "The whole offseason we're training. I don't take a day off, because I feel like it will help me get better and help make the team better so we can go to October. It's unfortunate. Everybody understands it. The fans understand. They want winners. The organization wants winners. That's why I'm here, to win. That's what I expect. They get to make the decisions. I hope they know they can count on me to do my job."