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WSH@PHI: Valdez singles to put Phils on the board

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels said it is nothing more than a little middle-of-the season fatigue.

He said he feels no pain. He said he is not concerned.

But he answered numerous questions about his health following Friday's 4-2 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. He lacked the normal velocity on his fastball, averaging just 88.6 mph compared to 91.4 mph for the season. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said afterward that Hamels had trouble getting loose because of stiffness in his left shoulder.

Left shoulder stiffness?

Manuel said there "definitely is some concern." He said he expected Hamels to be checked out, although it is unclear if that happened before he left the ballpark.

But flash forward a few minutes later and Hamels sounded perfectly cool talking about it. If something is bothering him, he sure did not sound like it.

"It's one of those times of the year," he said. "Travelling, pitching a lot of innings, things kind of mount and you just have to battle through it. ... It just kind of comes up. You don't ever know and you just try to do everything you can to get your body back and kind of waiting for your body to jump back, and I haven't felt that yet. Once I start getting that jump, I think everything will smooth out."

It appears Hamels has battled this for some time. The velocity on his fastball has dropped in each of his last five starts: 91.4 mph on July 22 vs. San Diego, 91.2 mph on July 27 vs. San Francisco, 90.7 mph on Aug. 1 at Colorado, 90.2 mph last Saturday at San Francisco and 88.6 mph on Friday vs. Washington.

The lack of velocity made Hamels' other pitches look a little more average to the Nationals hitters.

"It kind of affected his changeup maybe or something," Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond said. "The differential from 94 to 95 where he normally is to close to 90 turns into a five [mph] difference, I guess."

Manuel had Ben Francisco pinch-hit for Hamels in the bottom of the fifth inning, which seemed to be the wisest choice considering the circumstances. There seemed to be no reason to send Hamels out for another inning. He had thrown 88 pitches, and at this point, less mileage on the arm cannot hurt him as he prepares for his next start Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But Hamels made one thing clear talking to reporters after the game: he said there is no pain in his shoulder, making it sound more like a case of dead arm, something pitchers often describe having during the season.

"Sometimes it happens early, sometimes it happens in the middle, late ... depending on the weather, the temperature, the schedule, how many games, innings, it just kind of happens," he said.

The Phillies' offense fared no better than Hamels, who fell to 13-7.

Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez allowed just four hits, one unearned run and one walk and struck out three batters in 6 2/3 innings. He kept the Phillies off balance, making them look flat for the first time in weeks.

"He doesn't shy away from contact," Manuel said. "He's not out there to strike you out. He's out there to get you out and also to let you get yourself out. When he pitches good against us, that's what happens. We hit some balls hard, but they were right at 'em."

The Phillies finally showed some life in the bottom of the ninth inning when Shane Victorino and Chase Utley both singled. But they could muster only a run to fall short in their comeback bid.

"We just didn't have it tonight," Manuel said.

Manuel hopes Hamels has it Thursday against the D-backs or soon thereafter. Because right now, it seems only injuries could derail this team's plans to win its fifth consecutive National League East championship and get to where it wants to be.

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