In their final game before the All-Star break, a pair of NL division leaders will produce a All-Star caliber pitching matchup Sunday.
Despite being at the .500 mark just prior to the break, the Diamondbacks (47-47) sit atop an NL West in which the four other teams own losing records. Without Webb (13-4, 3.27 ERA), they might not even be contending in baseball’s worst division.
The 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner has been outstanding in 2008, accounting for more than one-quarter of Arizona’s victories while pitching at least six innings in 16 of his 19 starts. He’ll make his third straight All-Star appearance Tuesday, although he probably won’t pitch in the Midsummer Classic after facing the Phillies (51-44) on Sunday.
Webb - 2-0 in his last three starts - appears to be growing so accustomed to success that even six shutout innings may not satisfy him. The right-hander limited Washington to six hits and two walks in six innings of Tuesday’s 2-0 win, but wasn’t happy with his performance.
“Once again, it was a battle,” Webb said. “I haven’t had an easy inning in a month, it seems like.”
Hamels (9-6, 3.18) will not be joining Webb at the Midsummer Classic, but his numbers are strong enough that he could be. The left-hander, who appeared in his first All-Star game last season, has a lower ERA and opponents’ batting average (.204) than Webb, with 12 more strikeouts (118). He leads Philadelphia starters in wins, innings, strikeouts and ERA.
Hamels has been outstanding recently, going 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA and .175 opponents’ batting average since the start of June, pitching at least seven innings in all seven of his starts in that span. He suffered a tough-luck loss Tuesday against St. Louis, yielding two runs and three hits while striking out eight in seven innings of a 2-0 defeat.
Philadelphia has given Hamels a total of nine runs of support in his six losses.
“When he pitches a game like that, we have to win,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
Hamels won his only previous start against the Diamondbacks on June 6, 2006, when he gave up one run in 5 2-3 innings in a 10-1 victory at Arizona. Webb is 3-3 with a 3.68 ERA in nine starts versus Philadelphia, including a complete-game effort May 8 in an 8-3 win at home.
These teams have split the first two games of this series, with Philadelphia taking Friday’s opener 6-5 in 12 innings and Arizona bouncing back Saturday with a 10-4 victory.
Randy Johnson earned his 290th win Saturday and the Diamondbacks matched a club record with eight runs in the fourth inning. Every batter in the inning reached base for Arizona, which has scored 22 runs in its last three games after totaling eight in the previous five contests.
Shane Victorino went 3-for-3 with two homers for Philadelphia, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped and its division lead trimmed to one-half game over the New York Mets - winners of eight straight.