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Hot Harvey faces not-so-hot Hamels on Friday

ATLANTA - One is the veteran ace of a staff on a floundering team who is likely to find himself pitching in a new home ballpark three months from now. The other is arguably baseball's most dynamic young pitcher and headlines an up-and-coming club off to a hot start.

ATLANTA - One is the veteran ace of a staff on a floundering team who is likely to find himself pitching in a new home ballpark three months from now. The other is arguably baseball's most dynamic young pitcher and headlines an up-and-coming club off to a hot start.

The Phillies' Cole Hamels and New York Mets ace Matt Harvey face off Friday in perhaps the best pitching matchup Citizens Bank Park will host this season. The game displays the star attractions of two large-market National League East franchises headed in opposite directions.

Harvey has yet to lose since returning from the Tommy John surgery that cost him last season. The hard-throwing, 26-year-old righthander is coming off a May 1 win in which he outdueled Nationals ace Max Scherzer. His 0.92 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) rate ranked 10th in baseball entering Thursday's games.

In six career starts against the Phillies, Harvey is 5-0 with a stingy 1.50 ERA. He and Hamels, 31, have started opposite each other only once before, in September 2012, Harvey's rookie season. The Phillies won, 3-2, at Citi Field in a game in which Jimmy Rollins homered off Harvey and Hamels struck out 10 over six innings.

The beginning to Hamels' 2015 season has been uneven. Baseball's human trade rumor over the weekend followed up his best start of the year in St. Louis with his worst in Miami. The opposition has made him pay for his mistakes with eight home runs. He has struck out 38 over 37 innings but has also issued 19 walks - "way too many," the lefthander reiterated this week.

Hamels conceded he probably hasn't been as aggressive as needed with his pitches. At times he has tried to be "too fine and trying to throw the perfect pitches," he said.

"I know I have a couple pitches, and trying to throw each one of them so perfect, it doesn't really happen," he said. "You throw 100 pitches, you might throw 30 of them perfect and the rest of them you just have to battle, and I think I've been trying mentally just to, 'I want to throw all 100 perfect.' That's kind of impossible.

"I think it's just getting back to a better frame of mind and having that mind-set of, 'Let things go, just go out and pitch because they have to hit it.' "

They do indeed, and last season the Mets found it difficult to hit Hamels. His 2.41 ERA over five 2014 starts against them was much sharper than his 4.09 ERA career mark (31 starts) against the Mets. This will be his first outing of the year against New York, but Harvey's second against the Phillies.

Harvey beat the Phillies on April 14 in his first Citi Field start post-surgery. The Phillies scored three runs against him over six innings. He struck out eight and did not issue a walk. Chase Utley and Cody Asche homered off him.

"You've just got to be more precise with what you do," Asche said of facing Harvey. "There's less room for error with a guy like that."

Harvey is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in three career starts at Citizens Bank Park.

"You saw it before he got hurt and you see it now: He's undefeated," Phillies outfielder Ben Revere said. "We've got our best guy going, so it's all about try to get an early lead on them, get a couple runs."

Asche, who has struggled at the plate recently after a hot start, said the Phillies can build off the experience of facing Harvey last month.

"I'm sure he'll be a better pitcher on Friday than he was in only his second start of the season. That's just the natural progression of a season," Asche said. "So we're going to have to be ready to go."

Harvey vs. Hamels

Here is a comparison of how Matt Harvey and Cole Hamels started their careers, and how their 2015 seasons have started:

Career Through 41 Starts

Pitcher    ERA   IP   K   BB   

Harvey (current)   2.39   217.1   295   61

Hamels (May 2006-July 2007)   3.91   251.0   269   77

Matt Harvey's 2015

Date    Opponent   IP   H   R   K   BB   

April 9   Nationals   6.0   4    0   9   1

April 14   Phillies   6.0   5   3   8   0

April 19    Marlins    6.0   8   4   7   0

April 25    Yankees   8.2   5   2   7   2

May 1    Nationals    7.0    5   0    3   1

Cole Hamels' 2015

Date   Opponent   IP   H   R   K   BB

April 6   Red Sox    5    5    4    6    3

April 11    Nationals    7   2   1   5   2

April 16    Nationals    6    5    5   7   4**

April 22    Marlins    6    5    1*   5   3

April 27    Cardinals   7   4   1   9   4**

May 2    Marlins   6    10    6    6    3

*Run was unearned

**One was intentional

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@jakemkaplan

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