Pitching for the first time since signing a massive contract, Hamels looks to lead the Phillies to a fifth straight win in Friday night's series opener with the Braves and Sheets, who has yet to allow a run in his return from Tommy John surgery.
After pitching amidst trade rumors for weeks, Hamels (11-4, 3.23 ERA) takes the mound in Atlanta two days after signing a $144 million, six-year contract to stay with Philadelphia (45-54). The deal includes a club vesting option for 2019 and a limited no-trade provision for the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, who gave up five runs and a season-high 10 hits over 7 2-3 innings in Saturday's 6-5, 10-inning loss to San Francisco.
"(The goal) here is to win and to win multiple championships," he told the Phillies' official website. "We got one in '08. As much as I did my part I'd still kind of like to do more. It's something to where it went too fast. And that's ultimately where I want to make it happen again, as many times as possible."
Getting a ring this year seems like a tall order given that Philadelphia is 9 1/2 games back of Atlanta (54-44) for the NL's second wild-card spot.
The Phillies, though, are finally healthy and have won eight of 11. The five-time defending NL East champions defeated Milwaukee 7-6 in 10 innings on Wednesday for their third straight walkoff win.
"It shows we haven't given up," said second baseman Chase Utley , who has two homers and six RBIs in the last five contests. "We have some ground to cover, but we have the type of guys who are determined to win."
Sheets (2-0, 0.00) is showing similar determination in his return with the Braves, who beat Miami 7-1 on Wednesday for their second win in a row.
After giving up two hits in six innings of a 6-1 win over the New York Mets in his first big league game in two years July 15, Sheets permitted five hits in six innings in a 4-0 win over Washington in the opening game of a doubleheader Saturday. The right-hander, a four-time All-Star with Milwaukee between 2001-08, has struck out 11 and walked four.
"If you're asking me if I'm surprised I haven't given up a run, yeah," he said. "I'm not surprised that I'm getting people out. I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think I could get anybody out."
Sheets is 2-4 with a 4.88 ERA in eight starts against the Phillies, last facing them in 2008.
The Braves swept a three-game series in Philadelphia earlier this month but have lost five of six meetings in Atlanta, scoring eight runs in the defeats.
Brian McCann has been a huge nuisance for the Phillies this year, homering in each of his five games while batting .364 and driving in 13 runs. He homered off Hamels on May 1, one of only three hits in 21 at-bats against the left-hander since 2010.
Hamels gave up two runs and six hits in six innings in Philadelphia's 4-2 comeback win that day. He is 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA in his last four starts against the Braves with the Phillies winning each.
|July 26, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|July 09, 2012||Raul Valdes||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 25, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle - out 3-5 weeks|
|June 07, 2012||Freddy Galvis||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|June 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||Day-to-Day||Left game - left index finger laceration|
|June 02, 2012||Jose Contreras||60-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|July 20, 2012||Matt Diaz||15-Day DL||Right thumb contusion|
|July 14, 2012||Jack Wilson||15-Day DL||Dislocated right pinkie finger|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||15-Day DL||Broken right pinkie finger|
|July 08, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 05, 2012||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Left elbow impingement|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Ben Sheets , signed to a minor league contract nearly four weeks ago, was sharp. Cole Hamels , who signed a $144 million deal two days ago, had the worst control of his career.
Brian McCann hit a three-run homer off Hamels, and Sheets continued his impressive comeback to lead the Atlanta Braves past the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 on Friday night.
Sheets (3-0) won his third straight start, allowing one run and six hits with one walk and four strikeouts in six innings.
After missing all of last season while recovering from elbow surgery, Sheets signed the minor league deal on July 1 and had his contract purchased by the Braves on July 15.
Asked if the month has been a blur, Sheets said "Man, I'm just riding it, riding the wave.
"I mean, I'm on a very good team and the guys are doing the heavy pulling. I'm just trying to put in a little two cents myself, trying to help us out."
The Braves trail first-place Washington, which lost to Milwaukee 6-0, by four games in the NL East.
McCann has eight homers and 19 RBIs in his last 15 games since July 5 and has lifted his batting average from .225 to .242.
"I like hitting right now," McCann said. "It's been a good couple of weeks, a good month I guess. I'm just glad I'm back to where I have been my whole career. My first half was brutal. I just put it behind me. To be honest I think that was the best thing that's ever happened to me. It made me get back to the basics and doing what I've always done. It was a wakeup call, it really was."
McCann has six home runs and 16 RBIs in six games against the Phillies this season, giving him 17 homers overall.
Hamels (11-5), making his first start since signing the six-year extension on Wednesday, set a career high with six walks in his shortest start of the season. He allowed five runs, three earned, on four hits with seven strikeouts in five innings.
He said he has been through a lot this week.
"It was a long week," Hamels said. "I don't think I'll have to experience that again."
Hamels said he was affected by "one of the more humid days I've ever had to pitch.
"It was one of the few games I've had to change my jersey twice," he said. "I'm hoping I don't have to do that ever again."
Hamels said the humidity affected his grip on the ball.
"I tried to force the issue over and over and over," he said. "Every pitch I could throw today was problematic."
The Braves weren't expecting six walks from Hamels.
"We got Cole on an off night," said Chipper Jones . "I don't know that I've ever seen him walk five or six guys in a game. Very uncharacteristic but we took advantage of it."
The loss ended Philadelphia's four-game winning streak and cost the Phillies a chance to move out of last place in the NL East.
Sheets did not allow a run while winning his first two starts in his comeback with Atlanta. That streak of 12 scoreless innings ended before he recorded an out against the Phillies.
Jimmy Rollins led off with a single and scored on Shane Victorino 's double to the gap in right-center.
The Braves, helped by Hamels' control problems and a fielding error by third baseman Mike Fontenot , scored two unearned runs in the second. The inning could have been bigger, as Jones was picked off second base after his leadoff double.
Hamels walked Freddie Freeman , Dan Uggla and Paul Janish to load the bases with two outs. Sheets' grounder bounced under Fontenot's glove for an error, allowing Freeman to score. Michael Bourn 's single to left field drove in Uggla, giving the Braves a 2-1 lead.
After Jason Heyward walked with one out in the fifth, Jones added his second double of the game. Hamels struck out Freeman before McCann's three-run homer, a high blast to center field, gave Atlanta a 5-1 lead.
John Mayberry Jr. dropped Bourn's fly ball in the left-field corner for a three-base error with two outs in the sixth. Martin Prado 's single off Jeremy Horst pushed the lead to 6-1.
The Phillies loaded the bases against Jonny Venters in the seventh, but he struck out Ryan Howard to end the threat.
NOTES: Hamels' previous high was five walks, most recently on June 29, 2007, against the Mets. ... Jones moved into a second-place tie with Pete Rose for most extra-base hits by switch-hitters with 1,041, behind Eddie Murray 's 1,099. ... The Phillies recalled IF Kevin Frandsen from Triple-A Lehigh Valley after placing 3B Placido Polanco on the 15-day DL with lower back inflammation. The move with Polanco is retroactive to Monday. ... The Braves signed RHP Miguel Batista , 41, who was released by the Mets, to a minor league contract. He will report to Triple-A Gwinnett. ... The Braves promoted LHP Sean Gilmartin, a 2011 first-round pick, to Gwinnett. ... Braves LHP Mike Minor will face Phillies RHP Joe Blanton as the series continues on Saturday night. The start time was changed from 4:05 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. to accommodate TV.