For the past three weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies have been playing like the team many expected to challenge for a World Series title.
Cole Hamels has been producing those types of efforts all year, especially against the Colorado Rockies.
Hamels looks to win his fourth straight decision and tie his career high for wins as he tries to beat the visiting Rockies for the third time this season in the opener of a day-night doubleheader Sunday.
It has obviously been a disappointing year for the talent-laden Phillies, who will see their five-year reign atop the NL East end. Philadelphia (67-71) is also in danger of finishing under .500 for the first time since going 80-81 in 2002.
A rare bright spot has been Hamels (14-6, 3.04 ERA), who was scheduled to start Saturday night before the game was postponed due to rain. He is the only pitcher with double-digit wins on a Phillies team with former Cy Young Award winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in its starting rotation.
Hamels has clearly been the best among the three, and he earned a six-year contract worth $144 million in late July. While he's gone just 3-2 in seven starts since signing that deal, he has a 2.54 ERA over that span.
Hamels has been even better over his past five outings, going 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA and two complete games. He was in line to pick up another win Sunday after six solid innings, but the Phillies allowed Atlanta to rally for a five-run ninth in an 8-7 loss.
While it was a missed opportunity for Philadelphia and Hamels as they remain a longshot for a wild-card spot, the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP said the Phillies put themselves in a hole a long time ago.
"I think losing six and seven in a row was way worse," Hamels said. "That's where your chances are, not one game."
The Phillies, though, have been playing better. Friday's win was their 13th in 19 games and have a chance to be three games under .500 for the first time since they were 31-34 on June 14
"That's kind of the way it goes," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I guess we have to keep at them. If I had my way, we never would've been under .500."
Hamels won a career-best 15 games in 2007, and he seems to have a pretty good chance to match that total against the last-place Rockies (56-81), who have lost three straight and four of five on their seven-game trip.
The left-hander has gone eight innings in winning each of his two starts versus Colorado this season, giving up three runs and striking out 14. He's 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts against the Rockies after going 0-3 with an 8.22 ERA in his first three matchups, with two of them coming in the postseason.
Colorado's Tyler Chatwood (4-4, 5.53) will be facing the Phillies for the first time as he makes his eighth start. The right-hander had a 7.62 ERA in seven relief appearances spanning two stints with the Rockies before being recalled Aug. 5 and put into the rotation.
He is 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA as a starter and has struggled with his command, walking 18 over 29 1-3 innings. A career high-tying five of them came in three innings Monday in a 6-1 loss to the Braves.
The Rockies will start Drew Pomeranz in the nightcap Sunday.
Pomeranz (1-8, 4.93), whose only win came July 6 versus Washington, allowed five hits in three innings while throwing 72 pitches in Colorado's 6-0 win over Atlanta on Tuesday.
The left-hander allowed five runs in five innings of a 5-1 loss to the Phillies on July 15 in his only career start against them.
Philadelphia will counter with rookie Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 2.77), who earned his first major league win Monday after allowing one run in seven innings of a 4-2 victory over Cincinnati in his second career start.
Philadelphia is 27-7 against Colorado since the start of the 2008 season, including winning a 2009 NL division series in four games.