ATLANTA -- Cole Hamels posted some of the most impressive numbers from a starter in the National League in the first half of the season, but it was nevertheless a frustrating first three months of baseball for the southpaw.
Hamels had a 2.18 ERA in his past 13 starts before the All-Star break, but he was just 3-3 in that stretch after suffering from some of the worst run support in baseball.
"It's kind of something I think I've battled for a while, and hopefully I don't have to battle it for too much longer," Hamels said. "I know I am human and it does always kind of creep into your head a little bit. I think that's just kind of the competitive nature that I have and just the understanding of what's going on in that sense. But I still have to be able to locate and I have to throw strikes and I have to go after guys."
As arguably Philly's most valuable asset, Hamels continues to draw interest from other clubs as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. His Saturday night counterpart, Aaron Harang, knows something about being trade bait.
Atlanta's 36-year-old right-hander is with his sixth team in the last five years. Although he was viewed as an over-the-hill veteran who was signed late in Spring Training to temporarily fill a gap in Atlanta's injury-depleted starting rotation, Harang has emerged as much more than a placeholder for the Braves.
The journeyman has a 9-6 record with a 3.53 ERA and 95-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 117 1/3 innings this season. Harang, who has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 19 starts with Atlanta, was masterful again his last time out, as he halted the Braves' four-game losing streak. He allowed just one run in seven innings in a win against the Mets.
"I thought Aaron pitched a great game, which he can do against anybody. He just stays away, away, away on you, and then comes in when he has to," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We didn't have great swings on him."
Meanwhile, catcher Christian Bethancourt has done a superb job as a fill-in as well. With Evan Gattis on the shelf since the end of June with a back injury, Bethancourt has been an effective game-caller and has posted a productive .255 average in 47 at-bats for Atlanta.
"He's done a [heck] of a job," Gonzalez said. "And now he knows -- and we know -- that he can play up here at the Major League level and do great. He really has done great."
Braves: Gattis behind the plate in Minors
Gattis saw his first action behind the plate in more than three weeks, catching five innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night as part of his current rehab assignment. He finished 0-for-2 with a groundout and a flyout.
The Braves plan for Gattis to catch seven innings on Saturday before serving as Gwinnett's designated hitter on Sunday. Gattis also served as the designated hitter on Thursday night and did not experience any issues.
"Fingers crossed, he doesn't need any more at-bats [after Sunday]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "... And if he feels good, then we'll activate him on Monday."
Phillies: Catchers working their way back
Philadelphia is looking forward to the return of catchers Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves, both of whom are currently rehabbing injuries.
Ruiz, who is coming back after sustaining a concussion on June 26 when he was hit in the head by an A.J. Ramos curveball in the 11th inning at Florida, is playing in Class A Advanced Clearwater, and he began a five-day schedule Thursday.
Ruiz caught the first five innings of the first game of the Threshers' doubleheader, going 0-for-3 at the plate. Nieves, who went on the DL on June 24 (retroactive to June 19) with a right quad strain, sustained June 18 in Atlanta, is at Double-A Reading.
"'Chooch' is coming along," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He started his games [Thursday]. He caught five innings. He'll DH [Friday]. He's got a program for five or six days and be monitored and see what's needed there."
The news is better on Nieves.
"He's close. He's real close," Sandberg said. "So a big part of the next week and going forward is having everybody mended up, and going forward with full strength and seeing what we can do."
• The Phillies and Braves have exchanged road sweeps in each of their last two series. The Phils took three straight games in Atlanta from June 16-18, which was their first series win at Turner Field since Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2012, while the Braves won four straight in Philadelphia from June 27-29.
• The Phillies began the season by going 9-5 (.643) over their first 14 games against NL East foes, but they have lost eight of their last 10 games within the division and 19 of their last 27 since May 11.
• B.J. Upton recorded his 500th career RBI on Friday night. It was his 27th of the season, surpassing last year's total of 26.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.