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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, July 4th (All times Eastern)

Philadelphia Phillies (40-45) at Pittsburgh Pirates (52-31), 1:35 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Philadelphia - Cole Hamels (2-11, 4.58) Pittsburgh - Gerrit Cole (4-0, 3.70)

(Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Phillies are hoping that a few extra days off will jumpstart ace Cole Hamels.

The Pittsburgh Pirates can't get their young hurler Gerrit Cole back out on the hill fast enough.

Hamels tries to avoid a career-high 12th loss of the season on Wednesday afternoon, while Cole looks to make it five victories in five major league starts in the finale of a three-game series at PNC Park.

The left-handed Hamels appeared headed towards a third straight losing start last Wednesday in San Diego after allowing five runs -- four earned -- over six innings before his offense rallied for a 7-5 extra-inning victory. That allowed Hamels to finish up the month of June 2-11 with a 4.58 earned run average in 17 starts on the year.

Though he avoided becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to lose 12 games before July 1, he is still the first to drop 11 games before that date since Claude Passeau and Wayne LaMaster in 1937.

So, the Phils opted to give the 2008 World Series MVP two extra days of rest, pushing back his next start from Tuesday to today.

"See if that won't help him some. See if we can't get him back to feeling good about himself," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel told his team's website. "He benefits just by clearing his head a little bit and resting. We'll give him a blow, mentally and physically. Mental has a lot to do with it."

A repeat of the outcome from the last time Hamels faced the Pirates would do little to help the 29-year-old. At home on April 23, Hamels took a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh, giving up both runs over eight innings. That dropped him to 1-2 lifetime in six starts against the Pirates with a 3.00 ERA.

It's been nothing but wins so far for Cole, the top pick of the 2011 draft by the Pirates. He made his MLB debut on June 11 and is perfect 4-0 through four starts with a 3.70 ERA. He is 3-0 at home.

The 22-year-old righty gave up three first-inning runs versus Milwaukee last Friday, but threw five shutout frames after that and was a 10-3 winner thanks to a seven-run second inning by Pittsburgh's offense.

"(The run support) allows me to have a little bit of breathing room out there, but my focus didn't change after I gave up the three in the first," said Cole. "My goal was to keep grinding it out ... I was just going to try and keep grinding and get as deep as I could."

Cole became the first Pirates hurler to win his first four start since Nike Maddox way back in 1907. He'll follow another streaking Pittsburgh hurler today in Jeff Locke, who ran his winning streak to eight straight games in Wednesday's 6-5 triumph.

Locke gave up three runs -- two earned -- over 5 2/3 frames, becoming the first Pirates left-hander to win eight straight decisions since John Candelaria in 1983.

"Everything kind of came together like it usually does when the game progresses," Locke said. "We used the defense again to make great plays. They bailed me out."

Pedro Alvarez broke a 1-1 tie with a three-run homer in the fifth inning, while Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks and two runs scored. Pittsburgh had 13 hits to rebound after seeing a nine-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday's series-opening setback.

Domonic Brown clubbed his 22nd homer of the season for the Phillies, but John Lannan yielded four runs on 11 hits and three walks over five innings in the loss, Philadelphia's third in four games.

"Lannan was in trouble most of the game ... He wasn't as sharp tonight as he was in Los Angeles," Manuel said, referring to Lannan's victory over the Dodgers on June 28 in which he hurled seven innings of one-run ball.

Pittsburgh won three of four in a late April series with Philadelphia and is 8-4 in the past 12 matchups between the Keystone State rivals. The Phils have not won a series in Pittsburgh since April 25-27, 2008.

07/04 10:19:59 ET