NEW YORK (AP) — On a sizzling day at Citi Field, the sweat pouring down Cole Hamels’ hand was giving him trouble with his grip.
No excuse, Hamels said.
Still, nothing ever seems to go smoothly for him this season — or against the Mets.
Hamels gave up three runs in a 35-pitch first inning and the Philadelphia Phillies never recovered Saturday, losing 5-4 to New York after a couple of rallies fell short.
“Sometimes your body just perspires in a different way and you try to control it and it doesn’t work as easily as it did in the past,” Hamels said. “So you just have to go out and hope it doesn’t really affect as much as it did. You just have to keep battling.”
Jimmy Rollins hit a leadoff homer, and Chase Utley had a two-run shot in the ninth for the Phillies. They put the potential tying run on second before Bobby Parnell retired Darin Ruf on a game-ending liner to second.
Marlon Byrd, David Wright and Daniel Murphy each had an RBI single for the Mets, who handed Hamels his latest defeat and snapped Philadelphia’s seven-game winning streak at Citi Field. Juan Lagares had a run-scoring single among his three hits.
“You can’t always go out with your best stuff, but you have to make the adjustments,” Hamels said. “I wasn’t able to make the adjustments as quickly as I would have liked in that first inning.”
Hamels (4-12) allowed four runs and seven hits over five innings before he was pulled for a pinch-hitter. The three-time All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP leads the NL in losses.
He has always struggled with the Mets. The left-hander, who was 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in three previous July starts, dropped to 6-12 in 24 outings against New York.
“He has trouble pitching here,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “The Mets have always been tough on him here. They grind out their at-bats on him, they make him pitch. Today it was hot and that might have been what they were set out to do.”
The series finale Sunday features a marquee matchup of All-Star pitchers: Mets ace Matt Harvey against lefty Cliff Lee.
Zack Wheeler wiggled out of early trouble in his sixth major league start for the Mets, but the prized right-hander needed 106 pitches to get through 4 2-3 innings in 93-degree heat.
Fellow rookie Gonzalez Germen (1-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam and struck out three in 1 2-3 hitless innings for his first career win.
“He did an amazing job,” Byrd said. “That could be a scary lineup to face when you’re a young kid.”
Philadelphia went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 overall.
Coming off a gem in San Francisco but pitching for the first time in 10 days, Wheeler gave up a two-strike single to Hamels to start the fifth. The Phillies loaded the bases with nobody out, but all they managed was Utley’s sacrifice fly.
All-Star slugger Domonic Brown flied out on a 3-0 pitch. Wheeler walked Ruf to load the bases again — and was lifted one out short of qualifying for a win.
Wheeler kept his back to Terry Collins as the manager marched to the mound, then handed over the ball and disappeared down the dugout runway. Collins followed moments later, and Wheeler was back on the bench to greet Germen with a high-five after he struck out streaking Delmon Young to preserve a 3-2 lead.
“Right now, the kid’s doing his job,” Young said. “He’s been pitching in big situations.”
Wright hit a run-scoring single in the fifth, and Murphy added his RBI single in the seventh. LaTroy Hawkins worked the eighth, and Parnell got three outs for his 18th save despite allowing Utley’s second homer in two days.
It was the first home run given up by Parnell since Chase Headley connected in San Diego on Aug. 4 last year.
Still struggling to command his lively pitches and get ahead, Wheeler has shown the ability to bear down in a jam. He held Philadelphia hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position, leaving opponents 4 for 32 (.125) in those situations during his brief big league career.
“I really concentrate. I really pride myself, if guys are in scoring position, that they’re not going to score,” Wheeler said.
Rollins drove Wheeler’s third pitch to right for his 45th career leadoff homer, breaking a tie with Brady Anderson for fourth place in major league history.
It was Rollins’ first home run in 162 at-bats since May 31. He has a 16-game hitting streak against the Mets.
New York came right back in the bottom of the first with the help of two walks by Hamels, who issued one free pass over 23 innings in his previous three starts combined. Byrd lined a run-scoring single, Lagares fisted an RBI single into shallow right, and Anthony Recker knocked in another by beating out a double-play ball after third baseman Michael Young double-clutched.
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