Florida (60-54) at Philadelphia (62-51)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Philadelphia, PA, US
Temp: 57° F
  • Game info: 1:05 pm EDT Thu Aug 7, 2008
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The Philadelphia Phillies won the 2007 NL East title despite lackluster pitching, but they were confident they’d have a chance to win nearly every time Cole Hamels took the mound.

That hasn’t been the case lately.

Hamels will look for his first win in more than a month on Thursday, when the Phillies play the decisive game of their series against the visiting Florida Marlins.

Even though the Phillies’ 4.73 staff ERA ranked 23rd in the majors last year, Hamels had a breakout season, winning a club-high 15 games with five losses and a 3.39 ERA.

While his ERA has stayed low in 2008, Hamels (9-7, 3.37 ERA) has struggled lately, pitching only 9 2-3 innings in his last two starts while allowing 14 runs - eight earned. The left-hander has also given up eight home runs in the five outings since his last victory at Atlanta on July 3.

Hamels has never gone six straight starts without a victory in his major league career.

“Now that I think about it,” he said, “the big innings that I have given up (this year), the changeup has been up. I haven’t really been able to locate it down in the zone.”

Despite Hamels’ problems, the Phillies (62-51) have gotten better pitching overall while winning eight of their last 10 games, moving 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Florida in the NL East after a 5-0 victory Wednesday. They lead the New York Mets by three games.

Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick tossed six innings in Wednesday’s shutout victory after an 8-2 loss on Tuesday. The home team has won two out of three games in all three of the division rivals’ previous series this year, with two of those sets taking place in Miami.

“Obviously, we know what the standings are,” Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs told his team’s official Web site. “Every game right now, especially against these guys and the Mets, it’s almost like a playoff game in itself. It’s kind of like playoff games in August.”

Before beginning a weekend series at Shea Stadium, Florida (60-54) will also look for its starter to bounce back.

Rookie Chris Volstad (2-2, 3.25) struggled through the shortest of his four big league starts on Friday. The 21-year-old right-hander gave up five runs - four earned - and eight hits in five innings of a 5-2 loss to Colorado.

“It was an experience start,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He will learn something from it and go on to the next one.”

While Volstad (2-2, 3.25) has never faced Philadelphia, Hamels has experienced mixed results against the Marlins this season. After giving up seven runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-3 loss on May 31, Hamels has allowed four runs and seven hits while striking out 20 in 16 innings during his last two outings versus Florida.

Philadelphia has still lost all three of those starts, as Hamels has received spotty run support even when he has pitched well this season.

The Phillies rank second in the NL with 563 runs, but have scored two or fewer runs for Hamels nine of his 23 starts, with Hamels going 0-5 with a 3.20 ERA in those outings.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Volstad CWS vs. C. Hamels TEX
6-4 Record 14-10
2.88 ERA 3.09
52 K 196
36 BB 53
1.33 WHIP 1.08