WASHINGTON -- With their ace on the mound against a last-place team, the Philadelphia Phillies got the kind of victory they need to stay in a pennant race.
Cole Hamels pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings for his 14th win, tying for the NL lead, and a cramp-assisted double play thwarted a comeback Thursday night in the Philadelphia Phillies' 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals.
The victory moved the Phillies, who have won three third straight series, ahead of Atlanta and back into second place in the NL East.
"It was a big game," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "I think our objective the rest of the way is to win every series. We didn't play our best the last three games as far as offense goes. The pitching was there for all three games."
Hamels (14-5) allowed four hits, struck out six, walked two and pitched into the seventh inning for his sixth straight start. He has won five of his last six decisions.
"He couldn't throw his fastball for a strike," said Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who went 0-for-4. "But he's a good pitcher, and good pitchers make good pitches when they need them."
Carlos Ruiz hit a two-run home run in the second, and Ryan Howard and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs had RBI for the Phillies, who took two of three from the Nationals without much offensive punch. Philadelphia scored nine runs and struck out 36 times in the series -- 12 times in each game.
"That is pretty good isn't it?" manager Charlie Manuel said with sarcasm. "We can talk to them, but you have to be careful what you say. I don't want them to be too tight. You have to stay positive and battle through it. Our pitching has been good enough to win, and that is what counts."
Hamels allowed only a double by Ronnie Belliard in the first inning and a single by Austin Kearns in the second before the Nationals chased him in the seventh. Kearns led off with a double, and Nook Logan got on with a two-out bunt single.
But the Phillies nearly blew their 4-0 lead in the eighth. Tom Gordon gave up home runs to Belliard and Dmitri Young and walked Kearns before being replaced by J.C. Romero. Romero allowed a single by Ryan Church, but the inning ended on a double play when right fielder Chris Roberson caught a liner and threw to second to double off Kearns, whose right hamstring had cramped just as he tried to reverse direction to get back to the base.
"I went to go back," Kearns said. "And when I planted, my foot kind of gave out."
Brett Myers pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save.
Nationals rookie Joel Hanrahan (2-1), making his fourth career start, struck out a career-high eight batters -- including Howard three times -- and allowed only four hits over five innings. But he also walked four, and had thrown nearly as many balls (50) as strikes (51) when he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth.
"With our bullpen, the way they've been used, it's not what we're looking for," Hanrahan said. "I've just got to get quicker outs and stop walking people."
Hanrahan allowed Ruiz's homer following a walk to Werth in the second. Ruiz hit a 1-0 fastball to left center for his fourth home run and his first since May 15 -- a span of 176 at-bats.
- The Nationals had won five straight series at home. The last time they lost a series at RFK Stadium was July 2-5 against the Chicago Cubs.
- Hamels' 14 wins ties Chicago's Carlos Zambrano, Atlanta's Tim Hudson and Los Angeles' Brad Penny atop the NL.
- Phillies LF Pat Burrell broke out of an 0-for-12 streak with a single in the fifth.
- The Nationals had two home runs in an inning at home for the first time since Sept. 2, 2006.
- Kearns left the game after the hamstring cramp. "I'm just cramping," he said. "Nothing serious."