When all this Four Aces stuff first started, there is one guy who I felt maybe flew under the radar, and it's not Joe Blanton. Cole Hamels was number four, not just in the rotation, but with the hype machine as well, and that didn't seem right. After all, the 27 year old is the only World Series MVP of the bunch, and it was entirely possible—if not likely—his best baseball was still ahead of him.
Fast forward to June 14, when if Cole was ever in fact taken for granted, he certainly is not now. Hamels has arguably taken over the lead as the Phillies' most dominant pitcher in 2011, or at the very least a close second. He's 8-2 with a 2.58 ERA, and a win tonight would tie him with teammate Roy Halladay and Boston's Jon Lester for the most in the Majors.
Hamels has been nothing short of magnificent from his second start on this season. He's lasted a minimum of six innings in every outing, and gone seven or later in all but two, while allowing more than three runs on only one occasion. The Phils are 10-2 over those twelve appearances, and Cole hasn't lost a decision since May 8.
Hamels is also eighth in MLB with 91 strikeouts, and leads the NL in the somewhat underutilized WHIP statistic—walks and hits per innings pitched.
While King Cole will try to keep pace with both his teammate and the rest of the league, the Phillies begin a four-game series over the next three days at home versus the Florida Marlins tonight, before hopping a plane after Thursday's day game for a brutal trip to Seattle. The Fightins defeated the Marlins 3-2 in Hamels' last meeting with the Fish on April 17, allowing two earned runs over seven innings to work a no decision.
Taking the hill for Florida is big righty Chris Volstad (2-6, 5.51), who has struggled mightily against the Phils for most of his four-year career. Volstad last picked up a W over the good guys on May 25, 2009, and is a miserable 0-5 with a 5.60 ERA in eight starts since.
Volstad's last start versus the Phils came on September 7, 2010. The former first round pick allowed nine hits and five runs over five, including three bombs. Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Howard each took the 24 year old deep in an 8-7 win.
Indeed, Ibanez and Howard have experienced great success at the plate against Volstad. Raul is 10-for-19 with three home runs lifetime, while The Big Piece is 11-23 and has gone yard an astounding six times. With Hamels on the hill, you figure if either of those two can connect tonight, the odds on a Phillies win are pretty good.