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Cole Hamels didn't earn a spot on the NL All-Star team, but that won't diminish his importance in helping the Philadelphia Phillies maintain their lead in the NL East.

The left-hander tries for his 10th win while looking to help the Phillies avoid a fourth straight loss in the opener of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Though Hamels (9-5, 3.22 ERA) has one fewer win than he did at this point last season when he was named to his first All-Star team, he was not selected to be part of next week's festivities.

The Phillies (48-42), however, hope Hamels can help them rebound after losing 10-9 to the New York Mets on Monday as they dropped the final three of a four-game set. The third-place Mets moved 2 1/2 games behind the Phillies, who'll try to avoid losing four in a row on a second straight homestand.

Philadelphia's lead over second-place Florida was cut to 1 1/2 games.

In his last outing, Hamels fell one out short of recording his third complete game of the season after allowing a run and five hits in a 4-1 win at Atlanta on Thursday.

"Once he got to 125 pitches, you've got to remember he's got the whole second half of the season," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel of his ace, who has posted a 2.87 ERA while striking out 15 in winning his last two starts. "You want to keep him fresh."

Hamels is 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals (50-40), who enter this series having dropped three of four.

The Cardinals, who lost two of the three to NL Central-leading Chicago after falling 7-1 at home on Sunday, have scored eight runs over their last four games, including one in each of the losses.

Contributing to the lack of production is third baseman Troy Glaus, who is 0-for-15 with seven strikeouts in his last four games, and infielder Brendan Ryan, who is hitless in his last 11 at-bats over five games.

"It's been kind of a common theme it seems like this year," outfielder Ryan Ludwick told the Cardinals' official Web site. "We go through little spurts where we leave runners on or don't leave runners on."

Ludwick will join teammate Albert Pujols on the NL All-Star team. Ludwick hit his 17th homer Sunday and is batting .333 (9-for-27) in his last nine games. Pujols, meanwhile, went 5-for-11 against the Cubs and is hitting .380 with nine homers in 12 career games at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Joel Pineiro (2-4, 4.52) will try for his first victory in more than two months for the Cardinals on Tuesday. He allowed four runs in five innings in an 8-7 win over the Mets on Wednesday as St. Louis snapped a six-game losing streak in his starts.

The right-hander, who is 0-2 in nine outings since beating Cincinnati on April 29, has a 3.46 ERA in two career starts without a decision against Philadelphia.

He'll face a Phillies' club that scored eight runs in the final four innings to almost overcome a nine-run deficit Monday. Chase Utley hit his major-league leading 25th homer, while Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell also homered for Philadelphia.

"We keep battling and keep fighting," Manuel said.

Howard extended his hitting streak - in which he has five homers and 13 RBIs - to 10 games while Burrell is batting .345 (10-for-29) with three home runs during his eight-game streak.

Utley, Howard and Burrell have combined for five home runs in three games versus St. Louis, which won two of three at home against the Phillies from June 13-15.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: July 8, 2008

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