With the Philadelphia Phillies regulated to riding out the rest of the season with an eye towards 2014, the club has to be happy with the rebounding effort of Cole Hamels over the past month.
Hamels tries to continue his recent surge on Wednesday night in the second contest of a three-game set versus the Chicago Cubs.
The 29-year-old Hamels has already set a new career high for losses in a season with a 4-13 record through 23 starts. However, Hamels has pitched to a 2.09 earned run average over his last six outings, and though he is just 2-2 in that span, his season ERA now sits at 3.87, the first time it has been under four this year.
The left-hander has been involved in consecutive 2-1 losses. He was charged with the defeat in Detroit on July 26 after giving up two runs over seven innings. Hamels then did not factor into a 2-1 setback to San Francisco on Thursday, hurling eight scoreless innings before becoming the victim of a blown save by Jonathan Papelbon. Hamels worked around seven hits and a walk in the outing.
The former World Series MVP has had success in his career versus the Cubs, going 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA
Chicago counters with its own hurler in Travis Wood, who has had success, though in limited form, against the opposition. The lefty has a 1.80 ERA in two previous meetings with the Phillies, including an outing on July 10, 2010 with Cincinnati in which Wood held Philadelphia to one hit over nine innings and struck out eight without a walk.
Wood has had a breakout season in 2013, with the All-Star going 7-8 with a 3.05 ERA in 22 starts. He is among the league leaders with 18 quality starts, but struggled to his shortest outing of the campaign on Friday versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 26-year-old lasted just 3 1/3 innings and matched a season high with five earned runs. He also issued five walks to tie a career high.
"I was battling all day, and you can't have five walks, especially with the team that they are over there and especially with as well as they have been playing," Wood said.
"I've been fortunate enough this season to be able to attack with most of my pitches and that just didn't happen tonight."
After getting shut out in their previous two games, the Cubs plated four runs in the second inning of Tuesday's opener and led 5-2 after three innings before the offense went cold in a 9-8 setback.
Donnie Murphy and Anthony Rizzo both homered in the Cubs' fifth straight loss, which did feature a late comeback attempt.
Nate Schierholtz followed up hits by Logan Watkins and David DeJesus in the ninth inning off Papelbon with a two-run single to pull Chicago within two runs with two outs.
Starlin Castro then hit a fly ball to left field that should have ended the game, but Phils outfielder Domonic Brown botched the catch and Schierholtz scored to make it a one-run game. However, pinch-hitter Thomas Neal flied out, to Brown, to end the game.
Edwin Jackson took the Cubs' eighth loss in nine games after giving up seven runs on 10 hits in five innings.
"When you leave balls up, it's not real good," said Jackson. "Today was just one of those days where you don't find a rhythm and everything is up and you don't really have your stuff."
The Phillies took advantage to win for just the second time in their last 15 games. Darin Ruf went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI and his fourth homer of the season, while Chase Utley had three hits, drove in a pair of runs and scored twice. Brown, in his first game since July 23 because of a concussion, also knocked in two runs as Philadelphia snapped a five-game slide.
Ruf has reached base in 33 straight games dating back to last season, the first Phillie to do so since Utley's 33-game streak from Sept. 7, 2008-April 22, 2009.
"It's nice getting a good pitch to hit, swinging at strikes, having a plan every at-bat," said Ruf. "That's what we've been talking about and it's nice to go up there and execute."
The Phillies have won 10 of their past 13 versus the Cubs, splitting a four- game set at home against them last year.