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STL@PHI: Hamels fans nine in seven solid innings

PHILADELPHIA -- It would be easy to chalk up the Phillies' offensive malaise on Sunday night to the fact that just one night earlier, they clinched the National League East crown in a club-record 150 games.

That said, the fifth consecutive division title for Philadelphia belies the fact that its offense continued to struggle in a 5-0 loss to St. Louis at Citizens Bank Park.

"It wasn't like last night," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It was completely different as far as noise and everything. After we had a little celebration and things like that, this is kinda normal. But we'll come back tomorrow and get them. We've got big Roy [Halladay] going tomorrow, so we've got a good chance."

For the ninth time in their past 10 games, the Phillies (98-53) scored three or fewer runs and wasted a solid effort on this night by left-hander Cole Hamels. The Cardinals (83-69) scored all five runs via the long ball as Allen Craig hit a two-run shot in the sixth, followed by a solo blast in the eighth, and Albert Pujols got the Cardinals on the board with a two-run blast in the first inning. St. Louis kept its playoff hopes alive, closing to within 3 1/2 games of Atlanta for the NL Wild Card. The Phillies' magic number to clinch the best record in the league remained two.

Craig went 3-for-4, and his second blast -- off reliever Joe Blanton -- landed in the shrubbery beyond the center-field wall. It was Craig's second career multi-home run game. The first came on Aug. 17 in Pittsburgh.

Hamels worked seven innings in which he allowed seven hits and struck out nine as he proved effective for much of the night.

In the first, Craig hit a double into left with one out. Pujols followed with a blast inside the pole in left field for a 2-0 lead. Pujols' 36th home run of the year came on Hamels' first offering of the at-bat.

Hamels settled down after that and threw four shutout innings before Ryan Theriot led off the sixth with a double into the right-center-field gap. Craig followed with his seventh home run of the season, a ball that landed well past the 374-foot mark in left-center, to make it a 4-0 lead.

"I try to win every game," Hamels said. "I'm trying to go out, and I'm trying to win. I know it's not an individual sport, but I only have three starts left, and I want to make the best of what I have. That's the way all of us in the rotation view it. We only get to play once every five days, so we definitely want to go out and give it our best. Not pad your stats but to go out and compete at the highest level you can."

Meanwhile, the Phillies' offense struggled to finish off potential scoring situations. On a night when they had at least one baserunner in each of the first seven innings, they couldn't convert. Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter tossed eight innings, fanning five and scattering eight hits. He forced the Phillies to hit into three double plays.

"That's what really takes you in a night like tonight," Manuel said. "He pitched well. He changed speeds well. He was aggressive inside. His sinker was good. At the same time, that takes the starch out of you when you've got something going, and if you do that 2-3-4 times in a game, that makes it pretty tough for you to score runs." Comments