WASHINGTON --- Left-hander Cole Hamels proved to be too much for the Nationals, who lost to the Phillies, 8-1, at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon.
Hamels pitched eight solid innings, allowed the one run, five hits and struck out five batters. He received plenty of run support as the Phillies scored a season-high eight runs. Ryan Howard had three hits and drove in two runs.
"They're a great lineup," Hamels said. "One through nine, they've got some pitchers who hit. Every single one of them can start a rally faster than you can possibly imagine, so you just have to keep bearing down with them, you can't give in. Sometimes you look at the National League as being the weaker division, but that kind of team is an American League-style team."
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg had an outing to forget. He couldn't get past the fourth and allowed six runs -- five earned -- in 3 2/3 innings.
"He had a lot of hitters at two strikes and couldn't put them away. A lot of damage with two strikes in the count," manager Matt Williams said. "I know that he is out there throwing hard. He had a good fastball again. Early fastball command was there, but when he got them to two strikes, he just couldn't put them away. It something that happens sometimes."
The loss snapped the Nationals' six-game winning streak, while the Phillies improved their record to 19-26. They have won eight of their last 11 games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Phillies have the power: The Phillies had the fewest extra-base hits (70) in the National League in 34 games through May 12, but have had a league-leading 40 in 11 games since. They picked up four extra-base hit against Strasburg, including a two-run home run from Maikel Franco in the third. Howard homered against A.J. Cole in the fifth.
"He keeps his aggression throughout the entire at-bat," Howard said about Franco. "He's going to continue to grow and get better. The more experience he gets at this level against this pitching, the better he'll get. He just needs to play." More >
Strasburg not at his best: Strasburg pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed six runs -- five earned -- on seven hits. The Phillies collected six of their eight runs in the third and fourth inning.
"I just didn't execute," Strasburg said. "I didn't make the pitches I was trying to do. I just have to learn from it. I just didn't put guys away."
Strasburg is off to his worst start of his career. In nine starts, he is 3-5 with a 6.50 ERA. He acknowledged that he has never been through tough times like this, but he vows to get better.
"It's a test for me. I will look at it that way," Strasburg said. "I'm not going to quit. I'm going to keep going." More >
Dr. Strange-glove: The Nationals committed four errors in the game. Three of those errors came in the fourth inning by Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos. The Phillies took advantage of the situation and scored two runs. Ryan Zimmerman made a throwing error in the second inning, but it didn't hurt the Nationals.
"The idea is that we need to play well to give ourselves a chance to win," Williams said. "Today was a clunker. But all and all, in the last couple of weeks, it's been darn good [on defense]. I'm not worried about the intensity level or anything of that nature. It's just one of those games."
Hamels keeps dealing: As the July 31 Trade Deadline gets closer, Hamels' asking price keeps inching upward with every strong start he makes. He allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out five in eight innings to pick up the win.
"Cole was in control," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He was good attacking the zone, good fastball, mixing his pitches well. He pitched backwards at times. He was outstanding." More >
"I have two good ones now, I guess. They might have thrown an extra in there." - Howard, who said he has not felt this healthy since he had two healthy Achilles, referring to the one he ruptured in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
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Howard has hit 10 home runs since April 20, which ties Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton for the second-most in baseball in that stretch. The only player with more home runs in that span is Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, who has 11.
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies: It has been a heck of a season for Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang, who faces the Nats in Sunday's series finale at Nationals Park at 1:35 p.m. ET. He is 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA, which is the sixth-best ERA in baseball. His 0.98 WHIP ranks 10th. That type of production could make him a top target come the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will face the Phillies for the 14th time in his career on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. He is 6-5 with a 3.15 ERA in his career against them. In his last start against the Yankees, Gonzalez was perfect through the first three innings, but struggled the next two innings, allowing six runs. He ended up with his second straight no-decision.