Cole Hamels(notes) can be overshadowed at times in a Philadelphia Phillies rotation featuring Roy Halladay(notes), Cliff Lee(notes) and Roy Oswalt(notes), but his success has helped the team stay atop the NL East despite multiple injuries.
Expected to have its projected everyday lineup intact for the first time, Philadelphia turns to Hamels in the quest to avoid a third straight loss Friday night at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hamels (7-2, 3.01 ERA) has won three straight starts, including a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday in which he allowed two runs through seven innings. The left-hander, who has a 2.57 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 21 innings during his win streak, now has a chance to win four consecutive outings for the third time in his six-year career. He accomplished the feat May 1-16, 2007, and won five straight last Aug. 29-Sept. 20.
Hamels will have a tough time extending his streak if the offense can’t perform better than in its last two games. The Phillies (34-22) lost their final two games in Washington this week, 10-2 on Tuesday and 2-1 on Wednesday.
However, center fielder Shane Victorino(notes) is expected to be activated from the disabled list, giving the Phillies their entire projected starting lineup for the first time all season - including spring training. Victorino was hitting .284 with six home runs and 19 RBIs before straining his right hamstring May 18.
“It’s going to be good,” manager Charlie Manuel told MLB.com. “That’s going to make us better.”
Though Manuel expects the offensive production to rise with Victorino’s return, Chase Utley(notes) is still trying to find his rhythm. The second baseman, who opened the season on the disabled list, is batting .194 in nine games since returning.
“Utley is getting close,” Manuel said. “He’s starting to swing better. When we get Victorino back, yeah, we get better. Offensively, we’re going to get better.”
The Pirates (26-29) will be looking to bounce back from a devastating loss. They led the New York Mets 7-0 in the third inning Thursday but wound up falling 9-8. The defeat capped a 4-3 road trip before returning to PNC Park, where they’ve lost five of seven.
“Completing the task is what we need to take from this,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “People at this level, no matter how hard, no one’s going to give up. There’s too much pride involved.”
The right-hander pitched two innings of relief May 25 and allowed the decisive two runs in the 11th inning of a 4-2 defeat to Atlanta, then fell 3-2 as a starter Sunday against the Chicago Cubs after giving up three runs - two earned - over five innings.
Karstens has made one career start against Philadelphia, yielding five runs in six innings but not getting a decision in the Pirates’ 8-5 victory July 4.
The Pirates took three of four home meetings with the Phillies last season.