Hamels strikes out nine in eight innings

The Los Angeles Dodgers are happy they don’t face Cole Hamels more often.

Hamels struck out nine in eight strong innings and Ryan Howard homered to lift the Philadelphia Phillies to a 2-0 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night.

Hamels (8-2) allowed six hits and walked none while lowering his ERA to 2.58 and continuing his mastery of Los Angeles. He improved to 3-0 with a 1.18 ERA in five career regular-season starts against the Dodgers. He also is 3-0 in three career postseason starts against them.

”That’s the best I’ve seen him,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ”He was really sharp. We knew we’d have to battle to get runs.”

Hamels said there is nothing special about the Dodgers and reasoned that his record may be different if he had more starts against them.

”You don’t face them as much so I think if I faced them 30 times like I face the Mets, the record would kind of be different,” he said. ”I’ve been able to capitalize so far.”

He dominated Los Angeles with a mixture of fastballs and changeups that kept Dodgers hitters off-balance.

Asked what his best pitch was, Hamels replied, ”All of them.”

”I felt good, felt strong and let the pitches go,” he said. ”It’s just a matter of making pitches in the right area.”

The left-hander, who didn’t get a decision in his last start despite allowing one run and one hit in eight innings against the Pirates, got just enough run support from Philadelphia’s sputtering offense this time.

The Phillies finished with just five hits and went 16 for 90 (.178) in the three-game series.

”We definitely have to get more offense than we’ve been getting,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

But one of those hits was Howard’s sixth-inning homer, his 13th, to right off Hiroki Kuroda (5-7) that gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. The Phillies had gone a season-worst 65 1/3 innings without a home run, and Howard had been 0 for 13 with six strikeouts previously against Kuroda.

”It was a bad pitch to Howard,” Kuroda said. ”It was a cutter inside but it wasn’t inside enough.”

Howard’s homer was a boost to Hamels, who cruised through most of the game with his only trouble coming in the seventh. Andre Ethier doubled to lead off and moved to third on Matt Kemp’s hard-hit single to right. Hamels got Juan Uribe to pop to second, struck out Marcus Thames and induced a pop to shortstop by Rod Barajas for the final out.

”He had to pitch out of a jam and did a tremendous job,” Manuel said. ”He pitched a heck of a game, really good.”

Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 14 chances.

Kuroda gave up a run, four hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven.

”I can’t be satisfied,” Kuroda said, ”because I’m out there to win and we didn’t win.”

The Phillies squandered a chance to score in the fifth off Kuroda, leaving the bases loaded when Domonic Brown flied out to right to end the inning.

Kuroda was cruising along to that point, having retired 14 of the 16 batters he faced through 4 2/3 innings before Michael Martinez’s two-out triple to right. Kuroda then walked Hamels and seemed to lose the strike zone. Hamels went to second on a wild pitch that went behind Shane Victorino. Martinez started down the line, but retreated to third. The Dodgers then elected to intentionally walk Victorino, bringing Brown to the plate. After working the count to 3-2, Brown lifted the ball to right that was caught by a charging Ethier. Kuroda threw 28 pitches in the inning.

Philadelphia tacked on a run in the seventh off reliever Matt Guerrier on Brown’s fielder’s choice that scored Victorino, who had tripled.

The Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins missed his fourth straight game with a bruised right knee, but Manuel said the shortstop could start Thursday’s game against the Cubs.

NOTES: Philadelphia’s Chase Utley sat out Wednesday’s game after playing a season-high five straight. Utley spent the first 1 1/2 months on the DL with right knee tendinitis before being activated May 23. … Despite a game-time temperature of 92 degrees, Philadelphia recorded its 155th consecutive regular-season sellout with a crowd of 44, 751. … The Phillies presented tennis legend Billie Jean King with a jersey in an on-field ceremony prior to the game.