MILWAUKEE -- Cole Hamels could make things interesting for the Phillies the final six weeks of the season.
He could take a run at the National League Cy Young Award.
He took another step in that direction in Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park. He allowed eight hits, three runs, one walk and struck out 10 in 7 2/3 innings to improve to 14-6 with a 2.94 ERA. In a season without clear-cut favorites -- everybody knew Clayton Kershaw or Roy Halladay would win the award last season -- Hamels can make a push if he pitches well the rest of the way.
"Yeah, I'll go for that," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "That would be good."
Hamels is first in the NL in innings (171 1/3); third in strikeouts (168); tied for fifth in wins; sixth in WHIP (1.11) and ninth in ERA.
"If you're able to be in that sort of run, it means you're keeping yourself healthy, you're pitching deep into ballgames and you're doing everything you're working toward in the offseason and Spring Training," Hamels said. "I would take that credit over anything, knowing I was accountable for everything I did. I worked hard and left everything out on the baseball field."
Hamels will need to climb higher in some of those categories to become a favorite, but if he keeps pitching like he has this month -- he is 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA in four starts -- there is no reason to think he cannot.
Hamels stepped on the mound in the first inning with a 22-inning scoreless streak, which included back-to-back shutouts against Atlanta and Miami. He extended the streak to 23 before Aramis Ramirez snapped it in the second inning when he hit a solo home run to left field to cut the Phillies' lead to 3-1.
The Brewers saved Hamels a run in the third when Jonathan Lucroy missed second base after Ryan Braun ripped a ball off the top of the left-field wall. If Lucroy had not stopped running, there was a chance he could have scored on the play, but he instead retreated to second as Braun approached. Mass confusion ensued, with Braun finally running into the inning's final out.
"I looked up to see where the ball was, which I shouldn't have done with two outs," Lucroy said. "I looked up to see where the ball was and I just missed the bag. I could have kept running, but then they could have appealed it. Hindsight, I probably should have kept running. I asked Jimmy [Rollins] and Chase [Utley] if they saw it and they both said no."
In a season without many breaks, the Phillies would take this one.
That run proved big when Hamels allowed a two-out, two-run home run to Braun in the eighth to make it a one-run game. Braun is torching the Phillies this season. He is hitting .565 (13-for-23) with six homers, 10 RBIs and a 2.064 OPS in six games against them.
John Mayberry Jr. hit a two-run home run to left field in the second to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was Mayberry's 10th homer, which ties with Ty Wigginton for fourth on the team behind Hunter Pence (17), Carlos Ruiz (13) and Jimmy Rollins (13). Erik Kratz followed with a homer to left field to make it 3-0. It was his sixth of the season.
"I think we need more of that," Manuel said of the back-to-back homers. "I think that would work for us. I love it when we manufacture runs and play small ball, but home runs help get you something quick. If you have to get on the board real quick, that's the best way I know to get them."
The Phillies took a 4-1 lead in the third when Chase Utley singled and scored on Ryan Howard's double to center.
Other than the homer to Braun, Hamels was in complete control. Jonathan Papelbon looked good picking up a four-out save to preserve Hamels' 14th win.
Hamels set a career-high with 15 wins in 2007. Pitchers know they only have so much control over wins, but it is little solace to them when they finish the season with far fewer than they think they should have had.
Two more wins and Hamels sets a new career high.
"I'll finally get past 15? I have to get to 15 first," Hamels said. "That's kind of the evil number there. I haven't been able to get to it. It's nice, but you have to make all of your starts. You can't go on the DL. You have to pitch past the fifth inning so you can get a decision. Your team has to score you runs. There is a lot to play that people don't understand in winning ballgames."
Hamels could get about eight more starts. If he keeps pitching like this, he could take a run at 20, which would make him a strong candidate for the Cy Young.
In a season of disappointment, it actually could make September fun to watch.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.