Hamels was right: Harper got calls

AP Photo/Richard Lipski

Bryce Harper was intentionally hit by Cole Hamels on May 6 for, what Hamels said, was getting calls a rookie shouldn't.Fireworks could fly tonight on Wednesday Night Baseball (ESPN2, 7 ET) when the Washington Nationals take on the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tonight will be Cole Hamels first start against the Nationals since admitting to intentionally plunking Bryce Harper in the back in the first inning of a game on May 6 (a 9-3 Phillies win).

Harper might have gained his revenge already as he went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored against Hamels after being intentionally hit.

Phillies at Nationals, May 4 & May 5

One of the reasons Hamels said he hit Harper was because he thought Harper was getting calls that a rookie shouldn’t.

In the two games against the Phillies before being plunked, Harper took 25 pitches that were called balls. Of those 25, four were actually in the strike zone (16.0 percent), according to Inside Edge pitch-location tracking. Only Jayson Werth (5) saw more such pitches in the two games for either team.

The Phillies were not as fortunate. Only seven of 89 called balls against their hitters were in the strike zone (7.9 percent), meaning that they caught a break less than half as often as Harper.

Pitching Matchup

Edwin Jackson is off to the best start of his career. He is striking out hitters at the highest rate of his career (8.0 K/9) while walking fewer batters than ever (1.7 BB/9 – 10th-best in the NL). He correspondingly is on pace to have the lowest qualified ERA of his career at 3.31.

The key to Jackson’s success might be as simple as getting ahead in the count more often. He had been improving slightly each season, but took a leap to another level this season as he has thrown a strike 66 percent of the time on his first pitch, 14th-best among MLB starting pitchers (the league average is 59 percent). From 2009-11, Jackson never had a first-pitch strike percentage higher than 58.

Phillies Pitching, Since April 15

Since dropping his first start of the season, Hamels is 6-0 with a 2.20 ERA and a .212 opponent batting average over his last seven starts.

His seven straight quality starts is tied for the second-longest active streak in the majors and he’s helped keep a Phillies team afloat that’s battling a host of injuries.

Hitters to Watch

Adam LaRoche is 4-for-16 lifetime against Hamels, but all four of his hits have gone for extra bases, including three home runs, giving him a 1.208 OPS against Hamels.

Since being plunked, Harper is just 15-for-56 (.246 BA), but has picked things up recently. Over his last 10 games, Harper is hitting .325 (13-for-40) with six RBI.