Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels won a career-high 17 games last season while posting a 3.05 ERA with a career-best 216 strikeouts.
This year has been the polar opposite, as the 29-year-old left-hander is 4-13 with a 3.81 ERA through his first 24 starts, although his ERA has steadily dipped over the last few months despite the fact that he has continued to have a hard time winning games due to a lack of run support.
Things will get no easier for the three-time All-Star in start No. 25, as his Phillies begin a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves on Monday in Atlanta.
Despite the fact that they have won 15 of their last 16 games, the Braves hope to have some of their regulars back in the lineup — namely left fielder Justin Upton, who left Sunday’s 9-4 win over the Miami Marlins with a left hamstring cramp, and catcher Brian McCann, who has missed the past two games with sore right knee. Reliever Jordan Walden, who has been hurting since taking a line drive off his right hand in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Marlins, is also questionable.
Upton’s presence is especially important, as he has carried Atlanta’s offense at times this season, providing the Braves with 22 home runs and 61 RBIs to go with a .267 batting average and a .356 on-base percentage, all out of the 2-3-4 spots in the batting order. He’s a big reason why the team currently holds the best record (72-46) in the MLB.
Whether any or all of those players are back on Monday, a matchup with Hamels and the hapless Phillies gives the Braves a great chance to add another victory to their ledger.