Are Phillies up for fourth East title?

Is this the real Cole Hamels, or a mirage?

When Cliff Lee was traded in the offseason, all the pressure was on Cole Hamels to step up as the team’s second stopper. Quietly, the often criticized left-hander has been winning back fans in droves.

Hamels owns a 2.90 ERA in his past three starts, including a shutout in his most recent gem last Sunday. Brad Lidge earned the save in that one, prompting Charlie Manuel to say: “I could see Hamels winning quite a few games in the second half, and I could see Lidge closing some games,” the Phillies skipper said.

With Hamels and Roy Halladay locked in, the Phillies have nothing to worry about at the top of their rotation.

What will the Phils do at the deadline?

Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t about to conduct a firesale with his team just 4 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL East. However, it’s reasonable to suggest a potential trade involving Jayson Werth, who will test the free agent market after the season.

The Phillies have said that they don’t have enough money to sign Werth, who may command $16 million per year. With Domonic Brown waiting in the wings, would Amaro call his old friend Ed Wade and propose a swap for Roy Oswalt? Stay tuned …

The second half is where the heart is

The Phillies got back to their cardiac ways with a thrilling four-game sweep of the NL Central-leading Reds to end the first half of the season. Shane Victorino expects much of the same after the All-Star break.

And why not?

During the past three seasons, which all resulted in NL East titles, the Phillies went 130-86 for a .602 win percentage in the second half. mike greger

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