Baseball

Disastrous return to Philadelphia for Cole Hamels as the Phillies hammer the Cubs 11-1

At least the Citizens Bank Park crowd took it easy on Cole Hamels.

The Cubs pitcher, making his first start as a visitor in the city where he started his career, received three ovations from Phillies fans Wednesday night. The last came when he was pulled after the worst performance of his stellar career.

Hamels, making his third start since returning from a left oblique strain, was tagged for eight runs in two-plus innings as the Cubs fell on the road again, this time in an 11-1 loss.

The Cubs are 7-21 in road games decided by two runs or fewer, but there was no suspense this time. It was the Cubs' 15th loss in their last 22 road games, and they've dropped 24 of their 34 road games since May 31.

The Cubs haven't won a road series since May 17-19, and Wednesday's humbling defeate guaranteed they'll lose this one too.

A more urgent matter, in addition to holding on to first place in the National League Central, is Hamels' well-being.

Hamels has allowed 12 runs on 17 hits in five innings covering his last two starts. Bryce Harper hit the first of two home runs – a two-run opposite-field shot to left – in the first.

Hamels allowed four hits to start the third and was replaced by Alec Mills, who surrendered a grand slam to J.T. Realmuto to cap a six-run rally.

The eight runs surrendered by Hamels were one shy of his career high, which last occurred in 3 1/3 innings on July 10, 2015.

Entering Wednesday's game, Hamels was 56-44 with a 3.26 ERA with 894 strikeouts in 143 starts at Citizens Bank Park over 10 seasons (2006-15).

But Hamels allowed nine hits to the 17 batters he faced, including an RBI single to winning pitcher Aaron Nola in the second. Nola was 3-for-45 before ripping his clean hit to left.

Hamels' season ERA swelled from 3.09 to 3.69. It was his shortest outing since walking off the mound before the second inning because of his oblique injury at Cincinnati on June 30.

Harper added a solo homer to right in the sixth off Mills, marking his 19th career multi-homer game.

The offense has scored three runs in its last two games, with Kris Bryant's home run in the seventh helping the Cubs avoid their fifth shutout.

But Nola (11-3) limited the Cubs to three hits over seven innings.

Yu Darvish (4-6) will try to prevent the Cubs from getting swept in the three-game series when he opposes left-hander Drew Smyly on Thursday.

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