Aaron Nola started Wednesday, so of course the Phillies won. They've won four in a row and six of their last seven. They entered Thursday's off day just 1.5 games behind the Braves and 5.5 games ahead of the Nationals. The Phils have 11 more games before the All Star break, and all 11 are against teams with losing records. Those standings could be pretty interesting by the break.

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—  Matt Breen  (extrainnings@philly.com)

Cole Hamels pointing to fans as the team rolls down South Broad Street during the Phillies’ World Series parade Oct. 31, 2008.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Cole Hamels pointing to fans as the team rolls down South Broad Street during the Phillies’ World Series parade Oct. 31, 2008.

The Phillies could get Cole Hamels, but then what?

Cole Hamels will almost certainly be traded this month by the Texas Rangers, who could be selling off most of their players as they sink deeper and deeper in the standings. And the Phillies will almost certainly be in the mix. You can never have too much starting pitching, and Hamels seemed pretty high on the Phillies' future last year.

Hamels has a 4.05 ERA but has a 2.05 ERA in nine starts away from Texas' Globe Life Park, where he won't have to pitch anymore if he's playing for the Phillies. He still has a home in Delaware County, his foundation is still based here, and his children attend Episcopal Academy. You would have to think Hamels would love to come back.

But if so, what would happen? Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola are locked in the rotation. Zach Eflin has been excellent since the start of June, and he won't be bumped from the rotation unless his finger blister becomes an issue. Nick Pivetta is coming off a difficult start against the Nationals, but has shown enough for the Phillies to be committed to him. That leaves Vince Velasquez's spot for Hamels.

It is unclear if Velasquez will be able to come off the disabled list next week, but the Phillies seem unconcerned about his bruised forearm. Could signing Hamels be the move that sends Velasquez to the bullpen? The decision to transition Seranthony Dominguez from starter to reliever has been excellent. He can pitch multiple innings and on consecutive days. He has been used like a Swiss army knife, pitching in different situations every night.

Perhaps the same could be done for Velasquez, who could rely simply on a fastball and slider as a reliever. Imagine a Phillies bullpen down the stretch with two dynamic pitchers in Velasquez and Dominguez. Velasquez would be another weapon for Gabe Kapler to employ. And that could be even more enticing than trading for Hamels.

The rundown

Gabe Kapler visited Aaron Nola on the mound Wednesday afternoon in the seventh inning, and the message was simple: "Noles, this is your batter." And as Scott Lauber writes, "Three pitches later, Manny Machado was taking his position at shortstop, Nola was back in the dugout and 'God Bless America' was being sung." Nola turned in another great performance and the at-bat by Machado, the last hitter he faced, encapsulated it.

The Phillies should trade now for Manny Machado, Bob Brookover writes. Machado spoke to Philadelphia reporters before Wednesday game and said it was a "bold question" when asked if he was open to signing an extension if he's traded this month. Sounds as if Machado needs a "Be Bold" shirt. Brooky says trading for Machado not only would make the Phillies favorites to win the division, but also, a pennant would become a real possibility.

Machado isn't the only Oriole who will interest the Phillies before this month's trade deadline. Zach Britton, the Orioles' former all-star closer, could be a Phillies target if he proves he has recovered from an Achilles injury. He has the same ties as Machado does with Phillies front-office executives, a handful of whom worked in Baltimore before arriving in Philadelphia.

Important dates

Today: Phillies are off.
Tomorrow: Phillies head to Pittsburgh for a three-game series, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Jake Arrieta starts vs. the Pirates, 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies finish series at PNC Park, 1:35 p.m.
Monday: Doubleheader at Citi Field against the Mets, 4:10 p.m.

Aaron Nola turned in another excellent performance against the Orioles on Wednesday.
Aaron Nola turned in another excellent performance against the Orioles on Wednesday.

Stat of the day

Aaron Nola's win Wednesday improved his record this season at Citizens Bank Park to 8-0. He is the first Phillies pitcher since Tommy Greene in 1993 to begin the season with eight or more straight wins at home. Greene started that season 10-0 at home. In his last six starts in South Philly, Nola has a 1.35 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 40 innings. He seems to like pitching at home.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: Why is the flag backwards on all MLB players uniforms this weekend? Is it a protest of some sort? Ronald S., email question.

Answer: No. The flag was backwards on the players' right shoulders — just like on Army uniforms — because the field of stars is always to face forward.