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SF@PHI: Hamels hailed by the Phillies' faithful

For the first time in weeks, there won't be rumors swirling around Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels when he takes the mound in Friday's series opener against the Braves.

The Phillies inked the southpaw to a six-year, $144 million contract extension on Wednesday. With a contract now in place through at least the 2018 season, Hamels will look to lead the Phils to their fifth straight victory on Friday.

"We felt like it was the right thing to do under the circumstance with his performance, his age, his importance with our club," general manager Ruben Amaro said. "Our goal is to continue to be a championship-caliber team, for now and the future. As I've said before, I think we have a much better chance with Cole as a major part of our rotation than without him."

Though this season was one that started with those same championship aspirations, the 2012 campaign hasn't given Phillies fans much to cheer about. Between injuries decimating the lineup at times and others underachieving, the Phillies arrive in Atlanta still mired in last place in the National League East.

Despite the down season, Hamels has emerged as the staff ace with Cliff Lee struggling and Roy Halladay missing significant time due to injury. Hamels will look to start the next chapter on a high note as the Phils open their six-game road trip against the NL East's top two clubs -- the Braves and Nationals.

"The fans are enjoying every single moment that we're able to go out there and do the job as best we can," said Hamels, who is 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA this season. "The city of Philadelphia has been absolutely outstanding. At the end of the day, a good game or a bad game, you realize there was a sellout watching every move that you made."

While Hamels took that next step in his career on Wednesday, Braves starter Ben Sheets will simply be looking to continue rebuilding his own career when he toes the rubber opposite Hamels.

After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery -- and two of the last three seasons due to injury -- Sheets is yet to concede a run in his first two outings with the Braves. The 34-year-old righty has tossed six scoreless frames each time out, allowing just seven combined hits and striking out 11 in those 12 innings of work.

"If you ask me if I'm surprised I haven't given up a run, yeah I am," Sheets said. "But I'm not surprised I'm getting people out. I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think I could get people out."

Phillies: Manuel trying to find starts for Nix
• Though Laynce Nix hasn't found his way into the Phillies' starting lineup since being activated from the disabled list on Sunday, manager Charlie Manuel is hoping to change that soon.

Nix, who had been out since May 10 with a strained left calf, is hitting .320 (16-for-50) with two homers in 26 games this season.

"Nix is a good piece to put up there in a big situation in the game," Manuel said. "But he also has to play enough to stay sharp."

Braves: Uggla feeling OK after beaning
• Despite being plunked in the helmet Tuesday night and sitting out Wednesday's contest, second baseman Dan Uggla insisted he sustained no serious injuries from the scary incident.

"I had some ringing in my ear when I first got hit, but nothing since then," said Uggla, who was kept out of Wednesday's series finale as a precautionary measure.

Uggla, who was struck by Chad Gaudin's 92-mph fastball in the seventh inning Tuesday, actually jogged down to first base afterward and finished the game. As of Wednesday morning, he had a bruised and slightly swollen left ear, but medical evaluations indicated there were no signs of a concussion.

"I ran out there thinking I was going to see blood and teeth and everything," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He acted like nothing had happened. He was lucky, and he seems fine."

Worth noting
• Uggla is just 8-for-53 [.151] with 17 strikeouts in his career against Hamels.

• Ty Wigginton is 12-for-36 [.333] with two doubles and a pair of homers in his career against Sheets. Add in his six walks and Wigginton's .429 on-base percentage against the right-hander is his highest against any pitcher whom he has logged 35 or more at-bats.

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