Astros-Phillies Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t given Cole Hamels much support
all year, especially in his last three outings.

He’s lost three straight starts without getting a single run of
support, and hopes those streaks end Tuesday night when the
Phillies continue a four-game home set against the Houston
Astros.

Hamels (7-10, 3.51 ERA) has a 3.15 ERA during this losing
streak, dropping two 1-0 games to the New York Mets before last
Thursday’s 5-2 loss to San Francisco in which he yielded five runs
over five innings.

“I wasn’t able to hit my spots,” said Hamels, who has the
fifth-lowest run support average in baseball at 3.23. “When I
finally did, they hit me.”

The left-hander is trying to avoid losing four straight starts
for the first time since June 11-28, 2006, as a rookie. He’s 3-2
with a 5.16 ERA in seven career starts against Houston (55-69).

Philadelphia (70-54) has totaled 12 runs over its last five
games, falling 3-2 in Monday’s opener. Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard
is 2 for 16 in that span, Jayson Werth is 3 for 15 and Raul Ibanez
3 for 19.

The Phillies remained 2 1/2 games behind NL East leader Atlanta.
Their lead for the wild card was cut to one game.

The offense could receive a boost with third baseman Placido
Polanco set to return. Polanco did not start Monday due to left
elbow soreness, and flied out as a pinch-hitter.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” manager Charlie
Manuel told the Phillies’ official website. “Every now and then
when he swings or check swings … he’ll feel something in his
elbow.”

The third baseman leads the Phillies with a .317 batting
average, although he is 3 for 19 in his last six games after going
23 for 60 over his previous 14.

Polanco went 6 for 13 in a three-game road sweep of the Astros
from April 9-11.

Despite that series, the Astros are the only NL team with a
winning record against the Phillies since 2004, going 27-16.

Houston, though, has also had recent trouble scoring, managing
18 runs in splitting its last eight games.

Starter Bud Norris (6-7, 5.23) is enjoying the longest win
streak of his career, going 4-0 with a 3.31 ERA in his last five
starts. He has pitched seven innings in each of the last two,
yielding two runs and throwing a career-high 123 pitches Thursday
to earn a 3-2 win over the New York Mets.

“I knew I wanted to pitch as deep as I could in the game and
obviously to get through seven, I was very pleased with that,”
Norris told the Astros’ official website.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA in two career starts
against the Phillies – both at home. He lasted a season-low 2 2-3
innings April 9, giving up three runs in an 8-0 loss.