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09/03/08 12:10 AM ET

Behind Hamels' gem, Phils blank Nats

Ace allows five hits in 7 1/3 innings, halts DC's win streak

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' seven-game winning streak, a confidence-building dash for a struggling team, met Cole Hamels on Tuesday, a pitcher with no sympathy for trivial, yet inspiring little tales.

Not in a pennant race, anyway. The feel-good story didn't have a chance, as Hamels returned Washington to the loss column with an efficient effort, pacing Philadelphia's 4-0 win at Nationals Park on Tuesday, keeping the Phils within two games of the Mets in the National League East.

Starting for the 19th time after a Phillies loss, Hamels handcuffed the Nationals on five hits in 7 1/3 innings, barely breaking a sweat in using 90 pitches to breeze through the first seven.

Hamels faltered in the eighth and needed help from J.C. Romero to escape the inning. Brad Lidge tossed the ninth to close it out. The effort handed the Phillies their 14th win in those 19 Hamels outings following losses.

"When we send him out there, we feel we have a good chance of winning," manager Charlie Manuel said.

For that reason, Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee are debating whether to pitch Hamels on Sunday against the Mets, on what would follow his regular four days of rest between starts. The debate is ongoing regarding whether Hamels should start that night against the Mets, instead of using Thursday's off-day to give him an extra day to recuperate.

"I want to put Hamels on the Mets," Manuel said. "That's a two-game swing, and this time of the year, we need to win some of those games in New York. We'll talk to him and see how he feels. We'll talk to the trainer and see where we're at."

Asked repeatedly how he felt about that idea, Hamels remained non-committal.

"It's tough because it's so late in the game and I haven't been a good player/teammate with the injuries I've had in the past," Hamels said. "It's kind of a sticky situation. This is something where I want to get past this so I don't have to think about an injury situation ever again."

Hamels reached a personal goal of passing 200 innings, and hasn't missed a turn due to injury this season."

"I think that's in their mind," he said. "I know it's in my mind. I just want to be able to finish the season. I want to be able to go out there and pitch deep into a game, but be smart about it. I don't want to overextend myself, because if I do, it's not going to benefit the team. They're counting on me for four or five more starts. That's what I'm focusing on, because I know if I can do that, I can help this team get into the playoffs."

With Sunday's start against the Mets up in the air, Hamels dispatched of Washington. Unlike his previous start against the Cubs, when a stressful 20-pitch seventh ran his pitch count to 108 and facilitated his departure, Hamels' had only 90 pitches through an easy seven innings. He started the eighth, but left after a one-out walk to Aaron Boone and a single to Anderson Hernandez.

As good as Hamels' overall ERA has been this season -- 3.01 -- he's posted a 2.53 mark in his past 17 starts, and allowed two or fewer runs in six straight outings.

The Phils' offense didn't crush John Lannan, managing two second-inning runs off the Nationals' starter before securing two insurance runs off reliever Lavele Speigner in the seventh.

Chase Utley painfully ended the Phillies second inning barreling into Nationals catcher Jesus Flores trying to steal home.

On third with and two outs and with Jimmy Rollins on first, Utley noticed Lannan's slow delivery to the plate and first base and figured he had a chance. When Lannan threw to first baseman Ron Belliard, Utley broke for home.

Belliard's throw beat Utley, leaving him no choice but to run into Flores, who stayed on the ground for several minutes before leaving on stretcher with a left ankle sprain.

"The other guy made a quick throw to home, and there you have it," Utley said. "I thought the only opportunity at that point to be safe was try to knock the ball loose."

Manuel and Nationals manager Manny Acta thought the play was clean. Manuel wished more Phillies would adopt Utley's aggressive style.

"He had to hit the catcher, because he was out. That's kind of how you play," Manuel said. "I wish every one of my players would play that way. That's not old school, that's good school. That's the way you play, unless you want to put some rouge and makeup and lipstick on. That wouldn't be good.

"We're having trouble scoring runs. Sometimes, something like that gets you going."

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