MIAMI -- One reason the Phillies believe they will bounce back in 2013 is they still have pitchers like Cole Hamels in the rotation.
Hamels finished 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA this season following an impressive performance Sunday in a 4-1 victory over Miami at Marlins Park. If Roy Halladay's new offseason program really can work wonders, and if Cliff Lee finally can enjoy some luck of his own (i.e. better run support), the Phillies should be in the postseason hunt next year.
"I'm happy that I'm going to be on this team," said Hamels, who signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension in July. "I like all the possibilities that we have. Knowing that guys are going to be healthy next year, knowing that I'm here for a long time and I can focus on what I want to do on the mound, just the knowledge that I've gained over the last few years ... that's kind of what I'm going to take away from this year. Obviously, I'd love to be in the postseason. We're going to miss that, but at the same time, [the fans] have something to look forward to."
Hamels allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out eight in seven innings to improve the Phillies to 80-79 with three games to play. They need to finish 2-1 this week against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park to finish with a winning record, which would be a nice accomplishment considering they stood 14 games under .500 on July 13. They need to win just one game to finish .500, which would allow them to avoid their first losing season since 2002 and become just the sixth team in baseball history to follow a 100-win season with a losing season.
Of course, a .500 record cannot make up for a hugely disappointing season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Phillies had won five consecutive National League East titles entering the season, which included their 2008 World Series championship and their 2009 National League championship.
They have higher expectations than that.
But a strong finish could be something to build upon. Their 35-22 record since the July 31 Trade Deadline is the fourth-best record in the National League.
"I like our chances and I like the opportunities we have," Hamels said.
Hamels pitched brilliantly early. He struck out the side in the first inning, and the Marlins did not hit a ball out of the infield until Bryan Peterson singled up the middle with one out in the fourth. Jose Reyes followed with a double, but the Marlins had two runners thrown out at the plate in the inning as they only could cut the Phillies' lead to 3-1.
Donovan Solano hit a leadoff double in the fifth, but Hamels stranded him at third.
Hamels, who has set a career high in wins and strikeouts (216) allowed Reyes to reach second on a throwing error in the sixth. Reyes stole third, but once again Hamels stranded the runner.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was impressed, both with Hamels' performance Sunday and his performance this season.
He thinks Hamels has more in him.
"I'm still looking for one of those big years, like a 22- or 24-win season," Manuel said. "I think he's capable of doing that."
Asked if Hamels could be his Opening Day starter next season, Manuel smiled.
"That's way too far ahead, man," Manuel said. "A lot happens over the winter. You have to go through winter, Spring Training and everything. I've got at least three real possibilities for an Opening Day starter. Hamels, with the season he's had, he's got to be up there at the top."
The Phillies made their mark early Sunday. They scored three runs in the first inning. Chase Utley's sacrifice fly scored Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz's double scored Juan Pierre and Nate Schierholtz's single scored Ruiz to make it 3-0.
It would be plenty for Hamels, who said he won't pay too much attention to the postseason this year.
"Probably, if I'm bored," he said. "When you don't make it, you kind of have a sense of bitterness and really don't want to follow it as closely."
The Phillies can get back next year. Hamels has been a hallmark of consistency since 2009. He just needs a little help.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.