Phillies-Pirates Preview

Gerrit Cole surely couldn't have pictured a much better start to his major league career.

Cole Hamels probably couldn't have imagined a worse one to his season.

As Cole tries win the first five starts of his Pittsburgh Pirates career, Hamels looks to avoid matching his career high for losses as the Philadelphia Phillies close a three-game set at PNC Park.

Cole (4-0, 3.70 ERA) has been steady if not spectacular, winning every start he's made and allowing three runs or fewer in all of them. The Pirates have scored a whopping 23 runs in his 24 1-3 innings.

"It's really a team effort," Cole said. "I've pitched pretty well but I've gotten a lot of support defensively and our offense has been very opportunistic. It feels good to say I'm 4-0, but it feels even better because the team is playing well."

He needed the Pirates (52-31) to play well in his last start after he gave up three first-inning runs to Milwaukee, and they responded with seven runs in the second. Cole went on to pitch six innings and threw a season-high 94 pitches in the 10-3 victory.

The right-hander became the first Pittsburgh pitcher to win his first four big league starts since Nick Maddox in 1907.

While Cole has produced nothing but victories, Hamels (2-11, 4.58) has spent most of the season getting the short end of the stick. The left-hander leads the majors in losses and already has matched the highest total of his eight-year career - 11 defeats in 2009 and 2010.

His teammates helped him avoid surpassing that mark Wednesday, rallying from three runs down to beat San Diego 7-5 after Hamels allowed five runs in six innings.

"The guys really picked me up," said Hamels, who has received just 22 runs of support in his last 11 starts.

He hasn't had much luck against Pittsburgh, either. Though his 1.57 career ERA at PNC Park is his best of any stadium where he's pitched at least 20 innings, he is 0-1 in three starts there. The same trend continued in Philadelphia on April 23 in his first start against Pittsburgh this year, giving up two runs in eight innings of a 2-0 defeat.

Hamels will face an offense that emerged from a brief slump with a four-run fifth inning in a 6-5 victory Wednesday. The Pirates had scored seven runs in their previous 40 innings, including a 3-1 loss in Tuesday's series opener that ended their nine-game win streak.

"I'll tell you what - there's something special going on here," Wednesday's winning pitcher Jeff Locke said. "All the guys pull for each other every night. We're not out of a game, ever."

Russell Martin broke a 3-for-23 skid with an RBI single that tied the game in the fifth, and Pedro Alvarez followed with a three-run homer. Alvarez entered the night 0 for his last 10 with six strikeouts, but he's batting .395 with six homers since June 20.

While Alvarez hit his 21st home run Wednesday, Philadelphia's Domonic Brown notched his 22nd as he went 3 for 5. The only NL player ahead of them is Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez with 23.

Brown has three homers and 10 RBIs over his last eight games and could be headed for his first All-Star appearance, but his Phillies (40-45) have lost 15 of 24. They enter Thursday looking to avoid falling a season-high six games under .500.

"I'm thinking about our team and how we can start winning some games," Brown said. "The All-Star Game would be nice but the big thing is to get things turned around here."

The Phillies also hope to avoid a fifth straight series loss at PNC Park.

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