Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Phillies vs. Nationals

TIME: 07:05 P.M. EST
VENUE: Citizens Bank Park

The Philadelphia Phillies have allowed one run in their last three games, the kind of pitching that has them on the cusp of their third consecutive NL East title.

They've also found some renewed confidence in the starter most responsible for helping them win their last two division crowns.

Cole Hamels has looked excellent in three of his last four starts, and he'll look to keep rolling Thursday night as the Phillies seek a fifth straight win and a three-game sweep of the visiting Washington Nationals.

Hamels (9-9, 4.21 ERA) was the World Series MVP last fall, but hasn't looked like a dominant pitcher for much of 2009 after experiencing minor elbow and shoulder issues during the early part of the season.

His ERA was at 4.78 heading into an Aug. 26 start at Pittsburgh, but he's been brilliant in three of his last four trips to the mound. He didn't allow a run over 17 innings between that outing against the Pirates and a Sept. 1 win against San Francisco, then gave up a run and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings Friday in a 4-2 win over the New York Mets.

"I've got four more games. I'm trying to redeem my season more than anything," Hamels told the Phillies' official Web site. "Any time you can finish strong and finish the way that you planned on starting the year, I think that's all I can really ask for."

Hamels was 3-1 with a 0.39 ERA in his past seven starts against Washington (50-95) coming into a May 30 outing, but he didn't have his best stuff that day. The left-hander came away with a win, but gave up six runs and eight hits in six innings.

The Nationals haven't had any luck at the plate so far in this series. The Phillies hadn't allowed a run in 26 innings before Tyler Walker gave one up in the ninth inning of a 6-1 win Wednesday, with Jayson Werth's seventh-inning grand slam providing all the offense Philadelphia would need.

"Hitting is contagious, but pitching is contagious, too," said Joe Blanton, who increased the Phillies' starters shutout streak to 23 innings.

Philadelphia reduced its magic number to clinch the East to 11.

Werth, meanwhile, is dominating the Nationals over the past week. He's hitting .450 with three homers and seven RBIs in five games against Washington since Philadelphia took two of three in the nation's capital last week.

"I knew he could produce from an offensive standpoint and I knew he had power, but I didn't know how consistent he'd be," manager Charlie Manuel said of Werth, whose 34 homers trail only Ryan Howard's 38.

Werth is 1 for 2 against Ross Detwiler (0-5, 6.17), who will make his first start since before the All-Star break. The rookie left-hander was sent to the minors after struggling in 10 starts from May 18-July 8, including a loss at Philadelphia on May 29 when he allowed five runs and 10 hits over four innings.

Detwiler pitched two scoreless innings of relief in Washington's 11-3 loss at Florida on Saturday.

"They gave me another opportunity to start, so I want to get the ball rolling, go into spring training and compete for a job," Detwiler told the Nationals' official Web site.

Copyright 2009 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.


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