Kurt Suzuki can't quite get Chase Utley at the plate, just as the Nationals can't quite shake the bogeyman Phillies making noise in the rear-view mirror. (Image: Howard Smith, USA Today)

Lefty Lose-ey: Hamels Prolongs Nats' LHP Woes

The differences between Monday’s 3-2 Philadelphia Phillies win over Washington and Tuesday’s 4-2 victory were subtle, cosmetic ones. Monday, the Nats got shut down by a left-handed guy who used to pitch for them, Tuesday, it was a lefty who never did.

Monday, Ian Desmond wore his pantlegs down. Tuesday, they were up.

Monday, Denard Span led off and played center field. Tuesday, newcomer Scott Hairston was the first man up.

Monday, Jonathan Papelbon had a shaky ninth before getting the save. Tuesday, it was Antonio Bastardo.

Other than that, folks, the song remained the same for the Nats — too little offense against a left-handed pitcher, a decent but not-good-enough outing from their own pitcher, a late rally that didn’t quite come to fruition, and a potential Jayson Werth go-ahead homer that died on the warning track.

Props should be given to Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who followed up John Lannan‘s eight-inning performance on Monday with one of his own on Tuesday, surrendering only Werth’s second-inning home run. Unlike Lannan, Hamels used his fastball to great effect over the course of his outing, with no greater example than the way Hamels extricated himself from Washington’s biggest almost-rally in the eighth inning.

With one out, Hairston beat out an infield single for his second hit of the game. Just arrived on Monday in a trade with the Cubs, Hairston found himself thrust into playing time immediately, partly because of his past success against Hamels and partly because of Span’s lack of success against all left-handers this season. Desmond followed with a hit, and Bryce Harper coaxed a walk from Hamels to load the bases with one out.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel came to the mound, but let Hamels, who was sitting at exactly 100 pitches, stay in. The lefty pumped three straight fastballs past Ryan Zimmerman to pick up the second out, and then battled Jayson Werth to a full count before getting the former Phillie to fly out to deep center, the second straight night Werth has been thisclose to a go-ahead big fly.

The Nationals did get a two-out RBI double from pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos in the ninth off Bastardo to cut the Philly lead to 4-2, but Hairston popped up to end the game.

Like his cohort Dan Haren on Monday, Nationals starter Taylor Jordan had a passable outing on Tuesday, using the double-play ball to his advantage and making it through five innings having allowed only one run. It was another potential double-play ball, however, that proved to be the rookie’s downfall.

Already beginning to lose effectiveness the third time through the batting order, Jordan gave up back-to-back singles by Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins to start the sixth. Chase Utley then hit a grounder to Adam LaRoche that could have been a 3-6-3 twin killing, but the first baseman’s throw to second clipped an alert Rollins, who made himself big as he advanced to second. The ball skipped away for an error, Revere scored, and now the Phillies had runners on the corners with still no one out.

After Jordan got Domonic Brown to pop up, Michael Young had the key hit, a two-run double to center that upped the Phillies advantage to 4-1 and probably ended the game as a contest, as little as the Nationals have done with left-handers this season. Collectively, the Nats are hitting just .215 against southpaws, the lowest mark in baseball.

And wouldn’t you know, the Nationals get another left-hander on Wednesday — All-Star Cliff Lee (10-2, 2.73 ERA) takes the mound for Philadelphia against fellow southpaw Gio Gonzalez (6-3, 3.14) for Washington.

Tags: Cole Hamels Nationals Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Washington Nationals

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