For the past three weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies have been playing like the team many expected to challenge for a World Series title.
Hamels looks to win his fourth straight decision and tie his career high for wins when he tries to beat the visiting Rockies for the third time this season Saturday night.
It has obviously been a disappointing year for the talent-laden Phillies, who will see their run of five consecutive NL East titles come to an end. Philadelphia (67-71) is also in danger of finishing under .500 for the first time since going 80-81 in 2002.
A rare bright spot has been Hamels (14-6, 3.04 ERA), who is the only pitcher with double-digit wins on a Phillies team that has former Cy Young Award winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in its starting rotation.
Hamels has clearly been the best among the three, and he earned a six-year contract worth $144 million in late July. While he's gone just 3-2 in seven starts since inking that deal, he has a 2.54 ERA over that span.
Hamels has been even better over his past five outings, going 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA while tossing two complete games. He was in line to pick up another win Sunday after six solid innings, but the Phillies allowed Atlanta to score five times in the bottom of the ninth and lost 8-7.
While it was a missed opportunity for Philadelphia and Hamels as they try to remain in the hunt for a wild-card spot, the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP said the Phillies put themselves in a hole a long time ago.
"I think losing six and seven in a row was way worse," Hamels said. "That's where your chances are, not one game."
The Phillies, though, have been playing better. They won for the 13th time in 19 games in the opener of this three-game series Friday night, beating Colorado 3-2 on pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz 's RBI single in the ninth.
Philadelphia is within four games of .500 for the first time since June 26.
"That's kind of the way it goes," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I guess we have to keep at them. If I had my way, we never would've been under .500."
Hamels won a career-best 15 games in 2007, and he seems to have a pretty good chance to match that total against the last-place Rockies (56-81), who have lost three straight and four of five on their seven-game trip.
The left-hander has gone eight innings in winning each of his two starts versus Colorado this season, posting a 1.69 ERA and striking out 14.
He's 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts against the Rockies after going 0-3 with an 8.22 ERA in his first three matchups, with two of them coming in the postseason.
Colorado's Tyler Chatwood (4-4, 5.53) will be facing the Phillies for the first time as he makes his eighth start. The right-hander had a 7.62 ERA in seven relief appearances spanning two stints with the Rockies before being recalled Aug. 5 and put in the rotation.
He is 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA as a starter and has struggled with his command, walking 18 over 29 1-3 innings. A career high-tying five of them came in three innings Monday in a 6-1 loss to the Braves.
Philadelphia is 27-7 against Colorado since the start of the 2008 season, including winning a 2009 NL division series in four games.
|August 22, 2012||Dexter Fowler||Day-to-Day||Left game - right ankle injury|
|August 20, 2012||Eric Young||15-Day DL||Left intercostal strain|
|August 19, 2012||Michael Cuddyer||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|August 19, 2012||Josh Rutledge||Day-to-Day||Left game - left quad tightness|
|August 14, 2012||Drew Pomeranz||Day-to-Day||Chest soreness|
|August 06, 2012||Todd Helton||60-Day DL||Torn labrum, right hip|
|September 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 29, 2012||Cole Hamels||Day-to-Day||Gastrointestinal illness|
|August 29, 2012||Vance Worley||15-Day DL||Loose bodies in right elbow|
|August 28, 2012||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee soreness|
|August 24, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|August 13, 2012||Nate Schierholtz||15-Day DL||Fractured right big toe|
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Philadelphia Phillies ' five-year reign atop the NL East is nearing an official end, and manager Charlie Manuel is evaluating the team's needs for next season.
The Phillies, who missed injured All-Stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for most of the first half of the season, are playing better now having won 10 of their last 14 games. But Philadelphia entered Saturday with a 67-71 record, 18 games behind first-place Washington in the division.
Philadelphia had to wait another day to continue its recent stretch of good play, as Saturday's scheduled game was postponed by rain after a delay of 2 hours, 49 minutes. The game was rescheduled as part of a day/night doubleheader on Sunday, with the first game slated to start at 1:05 p.m. and the nightcap scheduled to begin at 6:35.
Manuel said the Phillies haven't lost their edge, but maybe the toll of five straight trips to the postseason has had an effect on his players.
"I don't know if (the edge) is missing this year," Manuel said before Saturday's rainout. "When you go to two World Series and go to the playoffs five times and you go deep into the playoffs and you're going home every November, you stop to think about it, you're playing a lot of baseball.
"You count the games you play in spring training and the postseason and the regular season and you're playing a lot of baseball. You're a regular player, yeah over the course of the year it definitely takes its toll on you."
Philadelphia is a long shot to make the playoffs this season and Manuel is looking at the needs for next year.
The Phillies appear to have holes at several positions, particularly third base and possibly all three outfield positions. Outside of closer Jonathan Papelbon , who signed a four-year, $50 million deal before this season, Philadelphia also has question marks in the bullpen.
"Right now, I'd say our bullpen would be my first priority," Manuel said.
The Phillies have been piecing together a bullpen all season, often using young, unproven arms. Of the nine relievers, only left-hander Antonio Bastardo had a significant role in any of the Phillies' last five NL East titles.
"We got good potential, we got some talent there," Manuel said. "It's a matter of the consistency part has to come into play and sometimes the more experience they get, the better that is going to get, it should be. That's kind of what happens."
Besides the bullpen, Manuel is looking to find at least one more power bat - particularly someone who can hit and man third base. The Phillies are also trying to solve the outfield puzzle, with Domonic Brown a leading candidate for a corner spot but no other outfielder on the current roster is secure of even a backup role.
"We need some run producers and run producers are guys like a big corner outfielders who are big guys or a prototype third baseman," Manuel said. "They are run producers. When I say run producers, I'm talking 85 to 100 RBIs - frontline run-producing players. I'm talking about more than one."
Kevin Fransden has been playing third base for the Phillies, filling in for injured Placido Polanco . Fransden is hitting .336 with a homer and eight RBIs in 34 games. But he is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left fibula.
"I think he's resting it for a few days and the doctors will look at him and tell me more about him," Manuel said.
The Phillies also likely will be without lefty reliever Raul Valdes , who will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Monday, for the rest of the season.
Notes: Philadelphia LHP Cole Hamels (14-6, 3.04) is scheduled to face Colorado RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-4, 5.53) in the opener on Sunday, followed by Phillies RHP Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 2.77) against Rockies LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-8, 4.93). . Hamels will be vying for his career-high tying 15th win, set in 2007. He is 3-0 in his last four starts against Colorado, going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA over 30 innings. . Saturday's rainout deprived Colorado rookie Matt McBride an opportunity to play near where he grew up 45 minutes north of Philadelphia in Bethlehem, Pa. McBride, who is batting .160 in 11 games, was scheduled to start and play first base on Saturday.