One of the NL’s winningest pitchers and the major league leader in losses square off when Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies close a three-game series against Kip Wells and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Sunday.
Hamels (9-3, 3.82 ERA) is tied with San Diego’s Jake Peavy and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Brad Penny for the NL lead in wins. He is also second in the league with 108 strikeouts, trailing only Peavy (110), who will start for the Padres on Sunday.
The Phillies (38-36) have won eight of their last 10 games with Hamels on the mound. The left-hander struggled in his last outing, however, allowing a season-high six runs in a season-low five innings in Monday’s 10-1 defeat at Cleveland.
“It ticks me off,” Hamels told the team’s official Web site. “The main thing is to go out and put the team in a spot where they can win. If you go out there and give up five runs in the first two innings, that’s not doing yourself a good cause, or the team. It’s frustrating, but you can’t let it affect the next game.”
Hamels looks to bounce back against a St. Louis team he dominated in his lone start at Busch Stadium. He held the Cardinals to one run and two hits while striking out 12 in seven innings to get the decision in the Phillies’ 8-1 win on Aug. 3.
St. Louis starters have posted an NL-worst 5.54 ERA, with Wells (3-11, 6.75) one of the major culprits. The Cardinals (33-38), though, have few options with three starters currently on the disabled list - Chris Carpenter (elbow), Mark Mulder (shoulder) and Braden Looper (shoulder).
They traded for Mike Maroth on Friday, but the left-hander won’t be available to make his first start until Monday.
Wells made his last appearance out of the bullpen, pitching two scoreless innings to get the win as St. Louis beat Kansas City 7-6 in 14 innings on Wednesday. In his last start, the right-hander was tagged for six runs in 1 1-3 innings in a loss to the Royals on June 14.
Despite his struggles this year, Wells has won all five of his career starts against the Phillies, posting a 1.26 ERA while striking out 40 in 35 2-3 innings. He hasn’t faced them since 2005, when he pitched for Pittsburgh.
Wells hopes to keep his streak alive as the Cardinals look to win three straight series for the first time this year.
The Cardinals bounced back from getting shut out 6-0 in the series opener with an 8-3 win on Saturday - their fifth win in seven games overall.
Batting fourth for only the second time this season, Chris Duncan hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning, and finished with three RBIs. He is batting .458 (11-for-24) with four home runs and 16 RBIs in his last eight games, and is 5-for-14 with two home runs in his career against the Phillies.
“I think he enjoys the middle of the lineup,” manager Tony La Russa said. “I don’t care where he hits, the other side is going to pay a lot of attention to him.”
While the Cardinals improved to 2-6 against the NL East, the Phillies dropped to 10-5 against NL Central opponents.
Philadelphia lost for the fourth time in six games overall, but it was the Phillies’ first loss in five games at Busch Stadium, where they swept a three-game series last year.