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In stifling heat, Hamels stymies Nats

In stifling heat, Hamels stymies Nats

WASHINGTON -- Sweat dripped from Cole Hamels after his first pitch of a muggy 88-degree evening. By the third inning, he was exhausted.

"The weather affected me a lot," he said. "Sitting on the bench didn't help. I just felt really tired, like I'd been up for three days straight."

Without his best changeup and fastball, the Phillies' ace sleepwalked his way through 6 2/3 innings, turning in a gutsy performance on Thursday night in Philadelphia's 4-2 win over Washington at RFK Stadium. The lefty became the National League's fourth 14-game winner, and carried the Phils back into second place, three games behind the Mets.

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"It was special," Carlos Ruiz said. "I drank a lot of water, a lot of water, because I started to feel it right away. I think [Hamels] drank more than me."

"Miserable," Aaron Rowand added, offering his weather report. "Really, really, really hot. It sapped your energy. Cole did a great job tonight."

Feeling immediate effects, Hamels labored through the first three frames, needing 58 pitches to hold Washington scoreless. He then channeled teammate Jamie Moyer, and slowed down the pace, rather than trying to throw quicker and harder.

Hamels said he relied more on his curveball, and made quick innings his goal.

"I've learned a lot," he said. "Sometimes when you don't have your stuff, you try to overthrow, and you think if you work quickly, you might get into a rhythm again. I took the Jamie Moyer approach to try and make the hitters less patient, so I could get easy outs. All of a sudden, a couple of outs turned into a couple of innings."

Hamels' effort -- he's now 5-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his past eight starts -- allowed the Phillies to capture two of three games in the series, despite scoring nine runs. The high-powered offense had scored nine or more runs in a game 18 times this season, and eight or more 31 times.

"We have a good pitching staff," Hamels said. "It lets the offense know that, if they don't have the best day, we can take care of things. The offense has been carrying us the whole season, and it's time for us to maybe give them a rest."

Ruiz gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead with a second-inning two-run homer -- his first since May 15 -- off Nationals starter Joel Hanrahan (2-1). Ryan Howard added a third run with a seventh-inning fielder's choice, and Greg Dobbs doubled in the Phils' final run in the eighth.

Hamels surrendered a leadoff double to Austin Kearns in the seventh, struck out the next two batters and allowed an infield single to Nook Logan -- on his 101st pitch. Manager Charlie Manuel came out to get his starter. Hamels didn't argue.

"I was tired, and I didn't think I had enough to get [pinch-hitter Tony] Batista at that time," Hamels said.

A fresh Antonio Alfonseca finished the inning with a whiff of Felipe Lopez, and delivered his unique celebration, which teammates are having a hard time describing. It involves a thrust of his arm and a wild leg kick.

"Only he can pull that off," reliever Jose Mesa said. "My arm would fall off if I tried that."

Tom Gordon made things stressful in the eighth when he allowed home runs to Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young, then walked Kearns, bringing the tying run to the plate. J.C. Romero relieved and allowed a single to Ryan Church, but got Jesus Flores to fly to right. Chris Roberson tracked it down and doubled off Kearns, who had strayed too far off second.

Closer Brett Myers didn't let the Nationals breathe in the ninth, tossing a perfect ninth inning.

"Our goal is to win series," Rowand said. "It doesn't matter how it looks. All the W's count."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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