In one of his best performances of the 2009 season, Hamels was terrific in leading the Phillies to a 4-2 victory over the Nationals before a towel-waving sellout crowd of 45,210 Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
Hamels, the Most Valuable Player of the '08 NLCS and World Series, retired the first 15 Washington batters before Mike Morse led off the sixth with a clean single to left field. The appreciative Phillies crowd politely clapped after the hit and Hamels then proceeded to strike out the side -- Josh Bard, pinch-hitter Jorge Padilla and Justin Maxwell.
Hamels allowed five hits and tied his season high with 10 strikeouts in eight innings en route to his 10th victory and the 85th for the Phillies, who swept the Nationals. It was also the fifth straight victory for the Phillies, extending their lead in the National League East to eight games over the Braves and Marlins.
"I think it's being able to go out there, knowing what's at stake," Hamels said. "I think anytime September rolls around, and fortunately enough, I've been here when we've had to win every game. You still have to go out there... For some odd reason, I seem to bear down a little bit more and compete [in September] and I've been in situations where I've been able to win. It makes baseball more fun."
Before Hamels allowed a run in the seventh inning, the last Phillies starter to give up a run was Kyle Kendrick in the eighth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets last Sunday. If you were counting, that number was 29 scoreless innings.
Hamels improved to 4-1 with a 1.43 ERA over his past five starts. He has lowered his ERA from 4.78 on Aug. 21 to 4.07.
"I have a lot of confidence in Cole," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's had some ups and downs. It took him a while to get going, but his stuff is there."
Jimmy Rollins gave the Phillies their first run with an RBI double to left in the fifth off Nationals starter Ross Detwiler, scoring Pedro Feliz for a 1-0 advantage.
"He did a great job for us. He gave up a chance to win the ballgame," Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman said of Detwiler. "We put a five-inning limit on him, so we got him out of there. He could have gone another inning, but with where we are in the season, we decided to shut him down right there. He did a good job and had a pinch-hitter in his spot."
Carlos Ruiz was walked by Tyler Clippard with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, scoring Ryan Howard and extending the Phillies' lead to 2-0.
Hamels then helped himself even more with an RBI single to left off Saul Rivera. Hamels set a single-season career high with four RBIs, eclipsing his previous best of three in 2006 and '08.
But it was on the mound where Hamels was so tough, as he has been when the games are magnified in September and October.
The Nationals got to Hamels in the seventh with a run-scoring single by Elijah Dukes, but that was it. Hamels loaded the bases yet wiggled out of the jam by striking out Bard looking to end the threat.
"You have to enjoy it," Hamels said. "The games get more meaningful and the fans know it. We know it. We've worked so hard from the offseason to Spring Training and we expect to go out there and get the job done."
The Phillies got the job done against the last-place Nationals, going 15-3 and matching their all-time single-season best record against the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise originally set in 1976. This latest win pushed the Phillies 25 games above .500 for the first time since '93, when they finished 97-65.
Philadelphia secured its 85th win when Brad Lidge picked up his 30th save despite surrendering a run in the ninth. Lidge has recorded 30 or more saves four times in his career -- 2005, '06, '08 and '09.
"It's been fun for me to get out there and attack the strike zone," Lidge said. "I feel real good where I'm at. I'm feeling closer to where I want to be."
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less