Polanco decides 11-inning duel in St. Louis

Polanco decides 11-inning duel in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco hit the baseball where nobody could catch it Thursday, and manager Charlie Manuel considered that a tremendous relief.

Nothing bad could happen to the Phillies with the ball sailing over the left-field wall.

"We scored," Manuel said after a 2-0 victory in 11 innings over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. "We got to make a free pass around the bases. That way we couldn't mess up. I wanted to make sure he touched all the bases."

Is that a commentary on the team's baserunning?

"That's a commentary on our luck," Manuel said.

The Phillies prevented a four-game sweep with Thursday's victory to remain seven games behind the Braves in the National League East and four games behind the Reds and Giants in fifth place in the NL Wild Card race. The victory meant the Phillies did not waste a brilliant performance from left-hander Cole Hamels, who allowed one hit and one walk in eight scoreless innings.

Hamels struck out the first five batters he faced and retired the first 12 batters when Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday singled to left-center field to lead off the fifth inning. Hamels retired the next 10 batters before he walked Yadier Molina with two outs in the eighth.

Hamels struck out Brendan Ryan to end the inning.

The lefty had allowed just one hit and one walk in eight innings. He had thrown 97 pitches in oppressive heat.

He was finished.

"He pitched a great game," Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright said. "That's the second great game he's pitched against us. Second time, he's pitched great against me. He has really, really, really nice stuff. He uses it well against us."

Hamels is 1-0 with an 0.40 ERA (one earned run in 22 2/3 innings) in his last three starts. He had not allowed more than one run in three consecutive starts since Aug. 3-14, 2006, when he allowed two runs in 21 innings.

The southpaw is 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA (seven earned runs in 36 2/3 innings) in five July starts, and 5-5 with a 2.80 ERA (30 earned runs in 96 1/3 innings) in 15 starts since April.

"I think he might be back," Manuel said, smiling. "He was absolutely outstanding."

Roy Halladay and Hamels have been outstanding for much of the season, but they have a combined 17-15 record.

That is because the offense has struggled.

The Phillies have lost six of their first eight games following the All-Star break. They have averaged just 3.4 runs per game in that stretch, hitting just .239 with a .314 on-base percentage and a .379 slugging percentage.

"We could be going home 0-8 real easy," Manuel said.

The Phillies are ranked 13th overall this season in batting (.253) and 12th in on-base percentage (.322). They rank fifth in runs (435) and sixth in slugging percentage (.411), but have been wildly inconsistent. They have been held to one or fewer runs 23 times in 95 games. They had been held to one or fewer runs 21 times in 2009, 16 times in '08, 11 times in '07 and 13 times in '06.

The Phillies had not been held to one run or fewer more than 23 times since they did it 29 times in 2005.

"We have to do something about our hitting," Manuel said. "It's hard to explain. I don't know how you explain it."

The Phillies left the clubhouse Thursday for Philadelphia hoping that this is the game that finally turns around their season. They took everything as a sign, including Jayson Werth doubling to score an insurance run in the 11th inning. It was his first hit with a runner in scoring position since June 24, snapping an 0-for-18 slump.

"I've been feeling better out there," Werth said. "I think the results will come."

"We have to take this game and momentum into tomorrow," Hamels added.

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