Hamels ready for rematch with Kazmir

Posted: October 27, 2008

Cole Hamels is having a postseason to remember. The stylish Phillies lefthander is 4-0 with a 1.55 earned run average to this point of the playoffs going into what is likely to be his final appearance of the season.

Hamels has been so good, in fact, that Phillies fans could be excused for believing there's no way he can lose.

Tampa Bay Rays lefthander Scott Kazmir will be out to help his team demonstrate the flaw in that logic tonight in Game 5 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park.

This will be a rematch of Game 1 at Tropicana Field, when Kazmir was good (six innings, six hits, three earned runs) but Hamels was better (seven innings, five hits, two earned runs).

"Facing Cole Hamels, it looks like every pitch he throws, everything that he does, you feel that he's right on point now," Kazmir said. "So it feels like every pitch you throw is going to be a crucial pitch. You feel like you want to throw up zeroes. And if you don't, it's going to be tough getting a win.

"He really has everything going right now. So it feels like you have to be on your game to beat that guy."

Pitching with that in the back of his mind could work one of two ways. It could make Kazmir more focused and give him just enough sense of urgency to be at his best. Or it could trick him into thinking that every pitch has to be perfect. When that happens, pitchers often find themselves falling behind in the count and then having to come in with hittable fastballs.

Kazmir's earned run average after the All-Star break (4.02) was almost a full run higher than it was in the first half (3.04) and his postseason ERA is 4.15 in four starts.

He insisted he won't be spooked by the coziness of Citizens Bank Park. "I'm going to keep my strategy for the most part," he said. "There are a couple of things that, as I was watching the last couple of games, that I might change just a little bit. But, for the most part, you can't really change your game just because of the dimensions. That's when you get out of your game."

Hamels, like Kazmir just 24, remains unabashed even as he prepares for the latest most important start of his life.

"It's great that [manager Charlie Manuel] thinks I'm cocky," he said. "I don't want people to think I'm overstepping my boundaries because, truly, in order to show people that you're good, you have to play well. And that's how you gain your cockiness.

"For me, I think it's confidence. Really, I just have the confidence to go out there. I know I can do well. I have a team behind me that believes in me."

Manuel can't say enough good things about Hamels. "His poise and his focus and his determination play a big part in who he is and how he pitches," the manager said. "Cole Hamels goes out there and you can tell that he can smell a win and he's going to get you there.

"He'll give you everything he's got. But most of all I like his focus and his determination and his coolness."

All of which makes Kazmir, on paper, a decided underdog. It's a somewhat unfamiliar role for him but one he hopes to turn to his advantage.

"You're the underdog and it kind of feels like everyone's against you," he said. "So you want to go out there and prove everyone wrong. It gives you that little chip on your shoulder." *

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