The Philadelphia Phillies hope the extra rest and a big victory last week helped restore some confidence in Cole Hamels.
Hamels looks to pitch the Phillies to a third straight victory on Tuesday night in the continuation of a four-game series at home with the division- rival Washington Nationals.
The 29-year-old lefty went into last Thursday's matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates having already matched a career high for losses in a season and was given two extra days of rest by the coaching staff for a bit of a mental break. Hamels responded, holding the Pirates to a pair of runs -- one earned -- on five hits over seven innings without issuing a walk in a 6-4 triumph.
Hamels also struck out eight for his first victory in five outings, improving to 3-11 with a 4.38 earned run average in 18 starts this season.
"Just being able to get back to what I know and establishing the strike zone early," Hamels told Philadelphia's website. "Throwing all my pitches, I think ultimately staying down in the zone. I think that's where I've gotten hurt in the past."
Hamels' struggles this season include a loss in Washington on May 6, when he was charged with five runs -- three earned -- over 6 1/3 innings, but he still has solid career numbers in this matchup, going 13-6 in 25 encounters with a 2.64 ERA.
Philadelphia is looking to begin a push to get back into contention and got things off on the right foot by winning two of three against the NL East- leading Atlanta Braves over the weekend. The Phillies then picked up their fifth victory in seven games by winning Monday's opener with the Nationals by a 3-2 margin.
John Lannan hurled eight scoreless innings against his former club, the longest outing for the left-hander since an eight-inning performance with Washington on Aug. 28, 2009. The start was nearly wasted as Jonathan Papelbon allowed a pair of runs in the ninth inning, but the closer held on for his 19th save of the season.
Jimmy Rollins, Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf were credited with an RBI each for the Phillies.
"Lannan pitched a heck of a game. We got the lead and he held his own," said Phils outfielder Ben Revere, who scored twice and had three hits to push his team-leading batting average to .300.
Ruf is 3-for-7 with an RBI and three runs scored in three games with the Phillies this season and is expected to see the bulk of the work at first base for the foreseeable future as Ryan Howard is slated to miss 6-to-8 weeks of action due to a torn meniscus in his left knee that will require surgery.
Howard was hitting .266 with 11 homers and 43 RBI in 80 games this season.
The Nationals will also feature a fresh face tonight after acquiring outfielder Scott Hairston from the Chicago Cubs on Monday for a minor league pitcher. Hairston will give Washington a needed power bat off the bench and has gone deep eight times in 52 games this season.
He joins a Washington team that had a four-game winning streak snapped on Monday and is five games back of Atlanta in the NL East. The Nats are also just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies for second place.
Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche knocked in late runs on Monday, while Dan Haren allowed a pair of first-inning runs in his first start since being activated fro the 15-day disabled list. He struck out seven of his five innings of work.
"(Haren) threw the ball very well. I was pleased with his command, I was pleased with his stuff," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson.
Johnson was likely pleased with Taylor Jordan's last outing and the rookie makes the third start of his career tonight.
The 24-year-old righty made his major league debut on June 29 and picked up a loss at the New York Mets after giving up three runs -- one earned -- over 4 1/3 innings. He then did not factor into an 8-5 home win over the Milwaukee Brewers last Thursday despite yielding just two runs over 5 2/3 innings.
The Phillies own a slim 4-3 advantage in the season series, taking three of four so far at home.