With the Philadelphia Phillies in last place in the NL East, it's fitting that Cole Hamels will get another start against Washington as trade rumors swirl around him.
If the veteran left-hander wants to showcase his best stuff before the July 31 trade deadline, he tends to bring it consistently against the Nationals.Hamels will look to continue his mastery of Washington and lead the Phillies to a season-high sixth straight win as this series continues Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.Hamels is just 3-5 but his 2.87 ERA is one of the best of his career and he's worked at least seven innings in 10 of his 15 starts. Over 100 1/3 innings, Hamels has struck out 101 and allowed only seven homers.The low-scoring Phillies (42-51) are in last place despite their current run, and Hamels is their best bargaining chip. The three-time All-Star is 30 years old and in the second of a six-year deal with a club option for 2019.No team offers a better snapshot of what Hamels can bring than the Nationals (49-42), who are rumored to be interested in him and are one of 10 franchises he can be traded to without his consent. Hamels is 15-6 with a 2.58 ERA over 28 career starts versus Washington, which hasn't scored more than three earned runs off him since August 2010.Over his last four home starts against Washington, he's 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA."Pitching is the name of the game," manager Ryne Sandberg told MLB's official website when asked about possibly losing Hamels. "Pitching and defense."Hamels, who hasn't faced the Nationals this season, is coming off a solid outing at Milwaukee, yielding two runs -- one earned -- with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings of a 3-2 victory Monday."It was good just being able to go out there and see that the guys were playing good baseball from the beginning," Hamels said. "Then knowing that my job is just to go out there and go deep in the ball game and try to prevent runs, trying to keep the lead."Now he'll try to give the Phillies another solid start after A.J. Burnett's impressive outing. Burnett tossed 7 2/3 innings in a 6-2 victory that kept Washington tied with Atlanta for first in the NL East.Jimmy Rollins homered twice for the Phillies, whose bats have come alive since Hamels last pitched, providing 28 runs in four games after averaging 2.36 over the previous 11."There's something going on and hopefully it turns into a fire," Rollins said.They may find it tough to continue the surge against Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.47 ERA), who has allowed two earned runs over 13 innings in two starts against them in 2014.The right-hander gave up two runs and four hits with nine strikeouts against Baltimore on Monday, departing a 2-all tie after seven innings. The Orioles went on to score six runs in the 11th for an 8-2 victory.It was Strasburg's second straight quality start since he was tagged for a season-worst seven runs in a loss to the Brewers on June 25."I just wanted to go out there and try to build on the last start, just focus on the execution of the pitches," he said.Wilson Ramos extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a fifth-inning single Friday and Bryce Harper homered for the Nationals, who lost starter Jordan Zimmermann to a biceps injury in the fourth. A precautionary MRI is expected for the All-Star pitcher on Saturday.