The Philadelphia Phillies have no shortage of problems to solve in the upcoming offseason, so they may choose not to worry about who'll be pitching atop their 2015 rotation.
Sure to be the subject of trade rumors over the winter, Cole Hamels will first try to extend a historic streak by limiting an opponent to three runs or less in a 23rd straight start Sunday against the Atlanta Braves.
Although Hamels was a hot name at this year's trade deadline, the Phillies (73-88) couldn't find a deal worth taking for the ace left-hander, who is set to receive $22.5 million over each of the next four years.
The Chicago Cubs put in a waiver claim for him in August, but the clubs couldn't agree to terms on a deal.
Because it may be difficult to find a team willing to give up young players and take on the rest of his contract, Philadelphia might opt to hold on to Hamels with the hopes that Cliff Lee can come back healthy in 2015.
Hamels (9-8, 2.47 ERA) certainly hasn't done anything to diminish his value since the All-Star break, going 6-3 with a 1.91 ERA and 85 strikeouts over 89 1-3 innings in 13 starts.
Only the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (1.76) owns a better second-half ERA and no Phillies pitcher has held opponents to three earned runs or fewer in as many consecutive starts since Chris Short (26) in 1967-68.
Hamels surrendered two runs over seven innings Tuesday, but received no run support in a 2-0 loss at Miami.
"When you're looking at guys with ERAs (like that) most of them have 18 to 20 wins," the three-time All-Star told MLB's official website. "So, it's just going out there and trying to plug away and working toward something next year. I think that's what I can control."
Hamels is 16-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 33 career starts versus Atlanta (78-83), and he's 4-0 with a 0.97 mark in his last five meetings - all Philadelphia wins. He's allowed one run over 20 innings in three road matchups in 2014.
Now he'll face the Braves for the first time since pitching the first six innings of a combined no-hitter on Sept. 1.
B.J. Upton (0 for 17), Andrelton Simmons (1 for 16) and Ryan Doumit (3 for 15) have struggled when facing the 2008 World Series MVP, but Evan Gattis is 3 for 6 with two home runs in the matchup.
The Braves have shown some life offensively after averaging 2.1 runs during a 6-18 stretch that has left them out of the playoff race. They've almost doubled that average with four runs in each of the two games in this set.
Justin Upton hit a home run and a double in Saturday's 4-2 road win after batting .152 with two homers in his first 22 games this month. Jason Heyward added two hits following a 5-for-33 stretch over his previous 10.
After scheduled starter Alex Wood experienced left elbow discomfort his last time out, Atlanta is expected to use a bullpen by committee Sunday, beginning with James Russell (0-2, 3.19).
The lefty makes his first start since going 0-5 with a 9.33 ERA in 2011 while with the Cubs. He owns a 1.86 ERA in 15 career relief appearances against the Phillies, including three scoreless outings this season.