The Philadelphia Phillies have lost all four of Cole Hamels' starts, but the left-hander himself has been much better lately after a rocky beginning.
To Hamels, though, he hasn't been good enough.
Hamels tries again to pick up his first victory Tuesday night when he faces the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time in nearly two years.
The Phillies (9-11) rarely did anything but win when Hamels took the mound over the last two months in 2012, going 9-1 in his final 10 starts as the three-time All-Star posted a 2.58 ERA.
Hamels (0-2, 6.46 ERA) lost his first two starts of 2013 behind a 10.97 ERA, but he's been considerably better in his last two. He held the Marlins to a run over six innings in a 2-1 loss at Miami on April 13, then allowed three runs over seven - striking out a season-high eight - in a 4-3 defeat to St. Louis on Thursday.
"I felt really good. Everything was working really well," Hamels said. "But mistakes are coming at the wrong time right now. I have to be better than good. In order to win ballgames, you have to be great. I go out there expecting perfection."
Hamels' last three starts against Pittsburgh (10-9) - the last of which occurred in June 2011 - haven't been perfect, but they haven't been too far off. He's posted a 1.57 ERA in those outings but is 0-1.
Philadelphia's bullpen, which had a 4.98 ERA through Hamels' latest start, has been perfect in 10 2-3 innings since. The Phillies' relievers shut down the Pirates over the last 3 2-3 in a 3-2 win Monday as Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for his seventh straight scoreless outing.
"We have to win the one-run games," manager Charlie Manuel said.
This will be Jeff Locke's first start against the Phillies, and he's coming off a rough outing at home against Atlanta. The left-hander walked four and allowed four runs on three homers over 4 2-3 innings Thursday as the Pirates lost 6-4.
"The one thing that continues to challenge him is overall consistency," manager Clint Hurdle told the team's official website. "Some sequences are sharp, but there are too many misses. He's got to get ahead of more counts, to pitch competitively up here."
All Hurdle needs to look at to pinpoint those struggles is what happens on the first pitch Locke (1-1, 5.17) delivers. If Locke gets ahead with a strike, hitters are 7 for 26 (.269) with one walk. If he falls behind, batters are 9 for 24 (.375) with eight bases on balls.
Phillies third baseman Michael Young gets his first look at Locke as he tries to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Young's streak, though, is a bit unusual. He collected five hits in the first two games but has had one apiece in the past 11 - all singles.
Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin's streak is only at seven games after a single and a homer Monday, but he's provided a bit more production than Young. He's 11 for 23 with two homers, three doubles, six runs and a .571 on-base percentage during his streak.
Martin is 3 for 11 with a homer off Hamels, yet it's the man who bats behind him who has fared much better. Clint Barmes is hitting .143 on the season and hasn't had an extra-base hit in his last 14 games, but he's 4 for 5 with a homer and two doubles off Hamels.
The Associated Press News Service
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