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PHI@WSH: Hamels whiffs six over seven innings of work

Cole Hamels is still a Phillie.

That looked like it might not have been the case for much longer when the Cubs reportedly placed a waiver claim on the left-handed ace earlier this week, but after the teams couldn't come to terms on a trade, Hamels is scheduled to start Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. He'll square off against righty Dillon Gee and the Mets.

This will be Hamels' first time pitching against New York since, well, only a week and a half ago. He dominated the Mets for eight scoreless innings, striking out eight while scattering six hits and walking none.

Efforts like that one haven't always been the case -- Hamels owns a 4.19 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 30 career starts against the Mets -- but have been pretty common of late. Hamels' ERA this season (2.42) would be a career best over a full season, while his WHIP (1.11) would be his top mark since 2011. He's also striking out about a batter per inning while fanning three and a half times more than he walks.

Hamels' ERA reached a low point on the season after his last outing, Sunday against the Nationals. He limited the Washington bats to a lone unearned run in seven innings. Philadelphia lost, 4-0. It was the fourth time this year the Phillies lost a start in which Hamels let up two or fewer earned runs over at least seven innings.

"Cole was real good," manager Ryne Sandberg said afterward. "Hard to not think that it's a waste of a solid start."

Gee will be trying to regain the form he found the first month and a half before a strained lat sidetracked his year. In five starts since returning, his ERA has increased by a full run to 3.73, and he's finished seven innings just once. He's also struggled with his usually solid control, walking a combined eight batters in his last three starts.

Gee's last time out was better, though. He made it through 5 2/3 innings while allowing two runs on five hits and three walks to the Giants. It was nearly enough to get the win until the bullpen's rare late letdown.

The night Hamels shut down the Mets last month, the Phillies reached Gee for five runs in 6 2/3 innings. His final line would have looked prettier if the three runners on base when he exited didn't score on Chase Utley's grand slam.

This start -- and every start, really -- is significant for Gee as the Mets continue to evaluate personnel with an eye toward 2015. The club seemingly has a surplus of starting pitching, and a pure numbers game indicates some starters with the organization right now might not be come Opening Day.

Mets: Flores, Nieuwenhuis to get more playing time
The Mets started the weekend nine games back in the division, and with that significant gap has come an acknowledgement of reality. With the Mets needing to make a number of decisions about the team for 2015, manager Terry Collins said Friday that shortstop Wilmer Flores and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis will receive more playing time down the stretch.

Both players, but especially Flores, are considered to have higher ceilings than they've shown during stints in the Majors due at least in part to their irregular playing time. Now they'll get a chance to show what they can do.

"Everybody has said they think he's going to hit," Collins said of Flores. "Now, how much is he going to hit? Is he going to hit for power? Or is he going to hit for average? And the big question is: Is he going to be able to play the middle of the infield? … Obviously he is not the prototypical, rangy shortstop, but he has shown a strong arm. He's shown good hands."

Shortstop Ruben Tejada (.225/.344/.276) is expected to see less playing time as a result, while outfielder Chris Young (.205/.283/.346) was designated for assignment after Friday's 5-4 win. Outfielder Matt den Dekker was called up from Triple-A to fill Young's roster spot.

Phillies: Brown healthy, but not playing yet
At first, it was strep throat that kept Domonic Brown out of the lineup. Now, it's the current iteration's success.

The Phillies have won five of their last eight -- including a split with the Nationals, followed by a sweep of the Astros -- while averaging six runs per win. Sandberg doesn't "want to mess with something that's going good," including Grady Sizemore, who has hit .329 in 23 games with the Phillies.

Brown, meanwhile, has struggled this season. Entering Friday, his .615 OPS was 145th out of 151 qualifying hitters in baseball, while his .625 OPS as a left fielder was last out of 25 left fielders.

"I'd say he's still a player still learning things and trying to put together full seasons, back-to-back years, finding his game plan and stroke so he can be consistent throughout a whole year," Sandberg said. "That's still something he is working on."

Worth noting
• Former manager Charlie Manuel will be inducted onto the Phillies' Wall of Fame before Saturday's game.

• Lucas Duda's presence or absence in the lineup is worth keeping an eye on. Collins has made clear his desire to get the first baseman more regular playing time against left-handers, against whom Duda typically struggles, and he was indeed on the bench during that July 29 game against Hamels. Duda is a career 0.77 hitter (1-for-13, seven strikeouts) against Hamels.

• Jeremy Hefner, the Mets righty who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last year, exited his rehab start Wednesday with a strained right forearm. It's unclear if the injuries are related.

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