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Preview: Philadelphia Phillies Try To Hold On To First Place Behind Cole Hamels

(Sports Network) – It wasn’t easy, but the Philadelphia Phillies now lead the National League East for the first time since late May.

Cole Hamels will try to keep his squad there as he aims for a third straight victory in the finale of a four-game series with the Florida Marlins tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies posted an 8-7 victory over the Marlins last night, and coupled with a Braves loss to Pittsburgh, moved a half-game past Atlanta for the top spot in the division. Philadelphia hadn’t owned sole possession of first place since May 30.

Philadelphia trailed Atlanta by seven games for that spot on July 21, but have gone an MLB-leading 32-14 since.

“It’s always good to be in first place. That’s the only way to live,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Phillies built a 7-4 advantage over the Marlins thanks in part to homers from Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard, but a sloppy top of the eighth inning allowed the Marlins to tie things.

However, Victorino singled to start the home half of the eighth, stole second and then scored on Placido Polanco’s single with two outs.

Ryan Madson, who allowed the game-tying run to score on a wild pitch in the eighth, locked down the final three outs for the win, the Phillies’ seventh in nine games.

Mike Stanton led off Florida’s three-run eighth with a homer, his third in as many games, while Brad Davis made it a one-run game when he scored on Jayson Werth’s throwing error. Emilio Bonifacio later tied things on Madson’s wild pitch after previously getting to third on a balk.

Florida has lost two straight since winning five of six.

“We came back. They came back. It was one of those games,” Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said.

Hamels comes into this start on a bit of a roll. The 26-year-old has won back- to-back starts and thrown 15 scoreless innings since an 0-3 stretch over his previous eight starts that featured a solid 2.83 ERA.

Hamels hurled eight innings of four-hit ball to beat San Diego on Aug. 29, then limited Milwaukee to three hits and three walks over seven frames on Friday, striking out seven to improve to 9-10 with a 3.18 ERA this year.

The southpaw, who has allowed one run or fewer in seven of his last 11 starts, lost his only previous start this year versus the Marlins, back on April 18, despite allowing just two runs over eight innings. He is 2-7 with a 4.26 ERA lifetime versus them.

The Marlins go with lefty Andrew Miller, who has allowed one run or less in three of his four outings this year, including two starts. He beat the Braves on Friday, holding them to just a run on seven hits and three walks over five innings while striking out six.

The 25-year-old picked up his first win since July 4, 2009 and is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA this year. He is 0-3 with a 5.16 ERA in 10 career games versus the Phillies, including five starts.

The Phillies have won five of their last six over the Marlins and lead the season series 9-5.