Cole Hamels’(notes) erratic season didn’t prevent the Philadelphia Phillies from capturing a third straight NL East title, but if the club wants a repeat celebration at the end of the playoffs it may need its NL championship series and World Series MVP in top form.
The left-hander will have one final tuneup before the postseason Saturday against the Florida Marlins, while the Phillies try to secure home-field advantage in at least their NL division series.
Hamels (10-10, 4.25 ERA) was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the 2008 playoffs, emerging as the driving force behind Philadelphia’s surge to its first title in 28 years.
Things haven’t gone nearly as smoothly this year. While Hamels’ season includes a pair of shutouts and 15 quality starts, he has also allowed at least five earned runs seven times.
The latest instance occurred Monday against Houston, when he gave up six runs in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-2 loss to the Astros.
“Going out there, I thought I was executing the right type of plan,” Hamels told the Phillies’ official Web site. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work.”
Philadelphia’s opponent is still yet to be determined. The Phillies (92-68) can lock up home-field advantage in their first playoff series with a victory, but they could still face Colorado or Los Angeles.
Philadelphia could also realistically pass the scuffling Dodgers for the NL’s top spot and home field until the World Series, something the club will be shooting for even though it has been slightly better on the road in the regular season.
“I’d like to have home-field advantage,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We have to start winning some games in order to do that.”
The Marlins are 6-1 at Citizens Bank Ballpark this season after winning 7-2 on Friday in the series opener, Philadelphia’s second straight defeat since clinching the NL East on Wednesday.
Ryan Howard’s(notes) 44th home run - a two-run shot - was all the Phillies could muster offensively as Chase Utley(notes) went 0 for 4. The All-Star second baseman is 3 for his last 34, but 7 for 16 (.438) with three doubles and a triple against Marlins scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez(notes).
Sanchez (3-8, 4.10) will try to shut down the Phillies for the second time in as many weeks after allowing two hits in eight impressive innings of a 3-0 win on Sept. 22. He had entered the start at 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA in his previous matchups with Philadelphia.
The right-hander has a solid 2.91 ERA in eight starts overall since being activated from disabled list Aug. 21, but he will have to harness his control after walking a career-worst eight in five innings of a 4-0 loss at Atlanta on Monday.
“I never walked that many, ever,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know what happened.”
The Marlins (86-74) will be trying for a fourth straight win as they look to finish second behind the Phillies in the division. They are currently tied with the Braves.
They’ve used a major contribution from promising 22-year-old Cameron Maybin(notes) during the winning streak. The outfielder went 4 for 5 in Friday’s game and is 8 for 14 (.571) with two doubles and a home run in his last three contests.