WASHINGTON -- For the better part of three months, Cole Hamels has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. If the Phillies lefthander had more offensive support, he'd have a record to match his mound excellence.
Hamels allowed just one unearned run in seven innings Sunday at Nationals Park, but it was enough to make him a .500 pitcher, a true injustice.
For the second straight game, the Phillies were held scoreless in a 4-0 loss to the Washington Nationals. They have gone 21 consecutive innings without a run.
Any small momentum gained from winning the first two games of the series evaporated in the last two games when the Phillies were outscored, 15-0.
In his last 20 starts, including Sunday, Hamels has a 1.79 ERA. He entered the game with the 79th-best run support of all MLB-qualified starters, 3.55 per game. Hamels would have taken that average Sunday in a heartbeat.
He departed trailing 1-0, when manager Ryne Sandberg sent Reid Brignac to pinch-hit with one out and nobody on in the eighth inning. Hamels had thrown just 86 pitches, 66 for strikes.
As fate would have it, Brignac struck out. Hamels is now 6-6 with a 2.42 ERA.
Washington surely didn't mind his departure. Reliever Ken Giles, who entered the game with an 0.87 ERA and was stellar in 1 1/3 scoreless innings in Thursday's 10-4 win, was rocked by the Nats this time.
He surrendered three runs, two earned, in just one-third of an inning. The big hits were consecutive RBI doubles by Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth.
Washington scored an unearned run off Hamels in the third. Catcher Jose Lobaton hit a grounder to third that was bobbled by Cody Asche. Instead of charging the ball, Asche backed up on it. He then compounded the mistake by throwing wide to first.
After winning pitcher Stephen Strasburg sacrificed Lobaton to second, Denard Span, who torched the Phillies in this series, delivered a run-scoring single to center for Washington's first hit of the game.
Span was 7 for 15 with three runs and four RBIs in the series.
It was rough day for Asche. Even after hitting a two-out double in the fifth, he got caught leaning off second and Lobaton threw a dart in an effort to pick him off.
Asche was called safe. Washington appealed the play and the call stood, much to the chagrin of Nationals fans as the big replay screen seemed to indicate otherwise.
Hamels faced trouble in the sixth with runners at the corners, but he got dangerous Ian Desmond on an inning-ending liner to right.
The Phillies' Marlon Byrd drew a one-out walk in the seventh and later stole second without a throw. Strasburg, who allowed three hits and struck out 10 in seven innings, then recorded an inning-ending strikeout of Wil Nieves.
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