Hamels handles Braves as Phillies extend lead

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Philadelphia Phillies extended their lead to four games in the National League East by beating the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Monday.

Phillies starter Cole Hamels breezed through eight innings, allowing one run and striking out six to win his fifth successive start.

The left-hander surrendered an RBI double in the second inning to stake the Braves to a 1-0 lead, but Carlos Ruiz tied the game in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double and Philadelphia added two runs in the fifth.

Hamels improved to 12-10 while closer Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his 24th save of the season.

"You never want to feel comfortable in this game or relaxed, but if there's ever a time when you feel confident with where you're at, that's got to be right now," Lidge told reporters.

The streaking Phillies (90-61) won their eighth straight game to move closer to a fourth straight division crown, while the pursuing Braves (86-65) still lead the NL Wild Card race.

Atlanta starter Brandon Beachy was making his MLB debut and pitched 4 1/3 innings while allowing three runs - only one of them earned.

"It knuckled - it got in the wind," Heyward said. "I got a great jump right off the bat with it. I was right there the whole way. The last few rotations there took it out of my reach."

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)