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PHI@ATL: Hamels impresses, hurls seven shutout frames

ATLANTA -- Cole Hamels figures there will be the occasional game like the one he had last Tuesday against the Mets.

But there should be plenty more like the one he had Sunday against the Braves.

Hamels pitched splendidly in a 3-0 victory at Turner Field, which helped the Phillies take two of three from Atlanta and improve to 7-2. He allowed just four hits and one walk and struck out eight in seven scoreless innings, rebounding from the second-worst start of his career last week at Citizens Bank Park.

"He put it to us today," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. "He was throwing every pitch he had for a strike."

Some Phillies fans booed Hamels off the field Tuesday, when he allowed six runs in just 2 2/3 innings. He smiled when asked about the reaction Sunday.

"I've been booed many times," he said. "It's part of the game. I'm not trying to go out and lose a ballgame. I'll never try to do that. Sometimes you just aren't able to have things go well and have things go right. You learn from it, and you try to get better. If you get that response, it's the understanding that people know that you're good and they expect you to do well.

"It was a long night [Tuesday], but the next morning I know how to clear my head. You have to be able to do that to succeed in this game."

Hamels has been succeeding plenty. He is 7-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 18 starts since July 11. That is the sixth-best ERA in baseball in that span.

Hamels certainly looked more like himself Sunday against Atlanta. He retired the first 10 batters he faced before Braves center fielder Nate McLouth lofted a ball over left fielder Raul Ibanez's head for a double with one out in the fourth inning. Hamels retired the next five batters to enter the sixth with a 2-0 lead.

The Braves had runners on first and second with two outs in the sixth, but Hamels got Chipper Jones to swing at a first-pitch changeup and ground out to Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco to end the inning. The Braves had runners at the corners with two outs in the seventh, but Hamels got Freddie Freeman to break his bat swinging at a first-pitch cutter. Freeman grounded out to Phillies second baseman Michael Martinez, ending the threat and the frame.

The cutter, perhaps the best one he threw, was Hamels' 102nd pitch on a warm afternoon.

"I'll never say I'm out of gas," he said. "I can go out there and throw 100 more pitches if you want me to. Yeah, it was probably the turning point. I don't think I made [it to] a seventh inning in Spring Training. That was a test."

Braves right-hander Derek Lowe tested the Phillies, but he couldn't handle Shane Victorino, who singled in the first, singled and scored in the fourth and hit a solo home run to right field in the sixth.

Victorino ran from first to third when Polanco followed him in the fourth with a single to left-center field. It was good base running and it showed up immediately. Because while Jimmy Rollins grounded into a double play, Victorino scored to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

Victorino's homer made it 2-0.

Victorino went 9 for 13 with a double, home run, three RBIs and two stolen bases in the three-game series against the Braves. He has five-consecutive multi-hit games to raise his batting average to .417.

"Shane is hot," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Shane was patient at the plate. He figured out Lowe a little bit. He came in 2 for 24 against Lowe. He figured out he was going away, so he was going to hit it to left field. The home run was in because he started getting in. By hitting the ball to left field it brought the ball inside."

"I wouldn't say I figured him out," Victorino said. "It was one of those days. I just tried to stay on him. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you don't. I was able to stay on him a lot longer than I usually do. I hit a mistake he hit. That was nice."

The 2-0 lead must have felt like a 10-0 lead for Hamels. He received just 3.49 runs of support per game last season, which ranked 85th out of 92 qualifying pitchers in the big leagues. The Phillies also scored no runs for him while he was on the mound in 11 games. He went 0-9 with a respectable 3.68 ERA in those games.

If Hamels keeps pitching like he pitched Sunday, two runs could be plenty. Of course, he won't turn down a good 10-spot in his next start Saturday against the Florida Marlins at the Bank, either.

"They're battling," Uggla said about the Phillies. "They're playing well right now. They're one of those teams that got off to a hot start. They're hitting the ball. They're pitching well and playing good defense. They've been doing what they need to do to win. They're a good solid team."

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