While victories haven't been easy to come by for Cole Hamels, he managed to earn one last week.
Hamels now tries to win back-to-back starts for the first time as the Philadelphia Phillies continue a four-game set against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
After winning a career-best 17 games in 2012, Hamels (3-11, 4.38 ERA) has struggled through a rough year. The three-time All-Star has the highest ERA of his career and leads the major leagues in losses.
"I've played a lot of baseball and I've pitched in a lot of games, and I know I'm going to play a lot more baseball and pitch in a lot more games," he said. "I know that my record is just kind of blip on the radar and you have to be who you are."
A lack of support hasn't helped, as Hamels has received 3.42 runs per start, but he got enough in a strong outing Thursday. The left-hander allowed two runs - one earned - while scattering five hits and striking out eight over seven innings of a 6-4 victory over Pittsburgh.
"Just being able to get back to what I know and establishing the strike zone early," he told MLB's official 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 has shined in his last seven home starts against the Nationals, going 6-1 with a 3.47 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 46 2-3 innings. In his only matchup with Washington this year, though, Hamels yielded five runs - three earned - in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-1 road loss May 26.
Ian Desmond has one hit in his last 17 at-bats against Hamels and Jayson Werth is 2 for 14. However, recently acquired Scott Hairston is 12 for 30 with five homers - tied for the most by any player - against Hamels.
Nationals rookie Taylor Jordan (0-1, 2.70) is set to make his third career start since getting called up June 29. The right-hander allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-5 win over Milwaukee on Thursday.
Taylor won't have to worry about facing Ryan Howard, who is expected to miss at least six to eight weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The first baseman was 4 for his last 31 and hadn't played since Friday.
"We don't want any of our players on the DL," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "But we know what it is and it's treatable. Hopefully we can get him back in time to play this year."
Howard's absence hasn't hindered the Phillies (44-46), who have hit .310 in winning four of five. Ben Revere went 3 for 5 with two runs and a stolen base while Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young added two hits apiece as Philadelphia took Monday's opener 3-2.
"We just have to continue to do the little things, especially with Ryan out of the lineup," said left fielder Domonic Brown, hitting .324 with four homers, 14 RBIs and 15 runs in his last 17 games. "We got guys with speed on base, making things happen."
Revere has been doing just that, going 21 for 47 (.447) in his last 11 games. He has a five-game hitting streak against the Nationals (46-43), going 9 for 22 with seven runs.
Washington, which had won four straight before collecting just six hits Monday, has dropped three of four and eight of 11 in Philadelphia.
Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .354 with a home run and 13 RBIs in his last 13 games.