Between 2010 and 2012, Cole Hamels had the fourth-best strikeout-to-walk ratio among all major league starters.

And while his disappearing changeup was his out pitch (466 career strikeouts, .208 opponent average), his fastball was the foundation for the rest of his repertoire.

This season, as Hamels stumbled a bit out of the chute, that wasn’t so.

As he opens an eight-game homestand with the first of a four-game set against St. Louis, he needs to get that together to help prevent the Phillies first tailspin of 2013.

So far, batters have a .400 average against Hamels' fastball, with 3 doubles and 3 home runs in 20 at-bats. Never for any full season has it reached .270.

That was mostly from his first two times out, and you saw it in his pitch selection.

Against the Braves and Royals, he went fastball on 45 percent of throws and readily used his cutter and changeup – as he should.

Come Game 3, against a lowly Miami lineup, didn’t need to use much else, and went with his fastball almost exclusively. Wonder why.

His usage rate in those first two games falls right in line with his career average, so it’s not to say that he should be using it more. In fact, we’ve already seen this year what happens when he forces it.

And Hamels can’t be one-dimensional against this Cardinals lineup, especially. They don’t chase (13th in MLB in 0-Swing%), but fire away in-the-zone (Z-Swing%) for baseball’s second-best overall contact rate.

Hamels needs his fastball working, to set everything up and be effective in general.

Also worth noting: his average fastball velocity this year is about his career average, but it doesn’t have the same top-end heat. He’s reaching just 93.9 m.p.h. In 2010, he topped out at 96.7 m.p.h. and last year, he touched 95.1 m.p.h.

He’s more consistent with it, but consistency to hitters is often analogous to “sameness.” Variation would help.

It’s still got life to it, as it has the third-most vertical movement in baseball.

If the Phillies have life in this series, it starts tonight with Hamels – and his fastball.