Cole Hamels has seemingly found an answer to his struggles. Now he'll try to correct his recent inconsistency against the New York Mets.
Hamels looks to win a third straight decision while the Philadelphia Phillies' lineup hopes for yet another big game at the Mets' expense Saturday at Citi Field.Much of the season's first half saw Hamels (4-11, 4.05 ERA) put up uncharacteristically poor results. He lost six straight starts at one point and recorded a 4.58 ERA through his first 17 outings while throwing at least seven innings only five times.But he owns a 1.57 ERA over his last three starts, going at least seven innings in each.The left-hander gave up two runs over eight innings Sunday and would have claimed a victory for the third straight start if not for Jonathan Papelbon's blown save in a 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.Hamels has also issued one walk over his last 23 innings after previously averaging 2.8 per nine."To put the team in situations where we win, that's ultimately the big idea," he said. "(Earlier in the season) I was a little wild and not able to pitch deep in ballgames."Hamels saw mixed results while splitting two outings versus New York, giving up one run and six walks over six innings in a 5-1 road victory April 28 and four runs in six innings in a 4-3 home loss June 21.He's 4-4 with a 5.26 ERA in his last 11 starts against the Mets. Hamels held them to two runs or fewer five times during that stretch but also gave up four runs or more six times.Poor run support was also part of the reason for Hamels' 2-11 start, as he received an average of 3.1 runs in his first 17 games. However, he won't have anything to worry about if the Phillies continue to hit the Mets like they have been this year.Friday's 13-8 win marked the fifth time Philadelphia has scored seven or more runs in the teams' 10 meetings, with the Phillies (49-48) winning seven times. The series-opening victory was their seventh straight at Citi Field and pushed them above .500 for the first time since a 31-30 mark June 6.Philadelphia is slugging .490 with 17 homers in the season series with the Mets (41-51), including one each from Domonic Brown, Chase Utley and Michael Young on Friday.Eleven of the Phillies' runs came in the first three innings."After four days off, to see the bats come alive like that, that was good to see," said Brown, whose 24th home run tied him with Pedro Alvarez for the NL's second-most.Trying to keep Philadelphia in check will be rookie Zack Wheeler (3-1, 3.54), who's won two straight starts while allowing two earned runs in 12 innings. In his last outing he knocked off San Francisco, the team that originally drafted him in 2009 before he was traded in 2011, by yielding one run and three hits over seven innings July 10."That's the best all-around stuff I've seen," manager Terry Collins said of Wheeler, who retired 14 of the first 16 batters he faced.David Wright is 19 for 57 off Hamels, trailing only former teammate Jose Reyes (22) for the most hits against him. Wright was 2 for 5 on Friday with his 14th homer.
Cole Hamels has a 37.4 percent strikeout rate with his changeup, and hitters have missed on 46 percent of swings against the pitch, both of which are fifth in MLB this season. The Mets are hitting .206 in at-bats ending with a changeup this season, third worst in the majors. The Mets have struck out in 27 percent of plate appearances ending with the pitch, the second-worst rate in MLB.