Cole Hamels looks ready.
He allowed just one run on five hits and struck out a season-high 13 in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday in a 2-1 victory over the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium, giving the Phillies a two-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East with 16 games to play. The Braves lost to the Washington Nationals, 6-0.
Hamels is 5-3 with a 1.79 ERA in his last 13 starts, and has allowed just one run in his last 31 2/3 innings.
"It seems like he's the Cole of '06, '07, '08," Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla said. "He's been lights out this year."
Hamels' next start will be his biggest start of the season as he opens a critical three-game series Monday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies play the Braves six times in their final 12 games, so Hamels knew the importance of widening their lead Tuesday.
"I think ever since I've started, I've tried to pitch for the division," Hamels said. "I don't really want to put it down to the last 12 games. The only philosophy is every game matters. You start from the first game of the season, and that's been the way I've been able to go out."
The Phillies will have Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt follow Hamels against the Braves. It should be an interesting series to say the least.
"It's really fun to have our starters," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "We have three absolute horses at the front of our rotation. We've got [Joe] Blanton; he's a horse, too. But watching Cole tonight, he came up this year with the cutter. He's got confidence to throw it whenever. His fastball has been great. His changeup always has been great. He can mix in a curveball. He's very confident right now, mixing in all of his pitches. Maybe before, he'd be a little hesitant to throw a new pitch, but now he has command and confidence to throw all of his pitches."
Hamels threw a career-high 127 pitches, so he said an extra day of rest before Monday's start will be beneficial.
He started the night having pitched 25 consecutive scoreless innings, which ranked 12th in franchise history. It was the longest streak for a Phillies starter since Randy Wolf threw 27 consecutive scoreless innings in 2002, and the longest streak for any Phillies pitcher since reliever J.C. Romero threw 28 1/3 consecutive scoreless from 2007-08.
The streak ended in the first inning when the Marlins scored a run to tie the game at 1.
But Hamels recovered nicely. After Uggla's infield single scored Emilio Bonafacio, Hamels did not allow another hit until Logan Morrison singled to right field with one out in the fifth inning. In between, Hamels struck out eight batters on his way to 13. They were the most strikeouts for a Phillies starter since Hamels struck out 13 Marlins on June 11, 2008.
Hamels has 201 strikeouts this season, which is tied for second in the NL with teammate Roy Halladay.
Hamels needed to pitch well because the Phillies had trouble scoring. They left 10 runners on base in the first six innings.
Shane Victorino singled and scored on Placido Polanco's double in the first to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. They took a 2-1 lead in the fifth, when Victorino hit a leadoff double and Polanco walked. They stole second and third, and Ryan Howard walked to load the bases. Jayson Werth bounced into a groundout to score Polanco.
Hamels and the bullpen did the rest.
Chad Durbin got the final out in the seventh. Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth and Lidge, making his first appearance since Sept. 6, threw a perfect ninth to pick up his 22nd save. Lidge has a 0.52 ERA and 12 saves in 13 opportunities in 18 appearances since July 31. Opponents have hit just .119 against him.
Lidge's performance was worth watching a little more closely than usual because he had been sidelined a couple days last week after he hyperextended his right elbow. Lidge had been available to pitch since Friday in New York, but Phillies manager Charlie Manuel never found a situation to use him.
Lidge showed no signs of rust.
"You never know until you're out there," Lidge said. "I was definitely relieved, but I was more relieved [when I threw in the bullpen] in New York, and it felt good there. I knew I was ready to go."
Lidge is ready. Hamels has been ready. They have 16 games to play.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.