Hamels set to close out Reds

Cole Hamels works out at the Great American Ball Park. He is 3-0 when pitching with the chance to close a series.
Cole Hamels works out at the Great American Ball Park. He is 3-0 when pitching with the chance to close a series.

The Phillies lefthander gets another chance to pitch a clincher.

Posted: October 10, 2010

CINCINNATI - Now, the Phillies send out their most experienced postseason pitcher with a chance to close out their National League division series with the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday night at Great American Ball Park.

At 26, Cole Hamels had already pitched in more postseason games than Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt combined when this series began. It helped that Halladay had never pitched in the postseason before his no-hitter in the series opener, but it's easy to forget that Hamels was the young ace of the staff when this string of four straight playoff runs started for the Phillies in 2007.

It should also be remembered that Hamels is the owner of an NLCS and World Series MVP award for his fine work during the 2008 postseason and the lefthander was a lot closer to that guy this season than the one who struggled through the 2009 season and postseason.

"I already put [2009] behind me in November," Hamels said. "I'm just trying to do the job I know I'm capable of doing."

At least for the purposes of this playoff series, Hamels is the Phillies' No. 3 starter, but his manager finds that label extremely unfair and inaccurate.

"We've got three guys that are top-of-the-rotation pitchers and . . . you could basically put them wherever you wanted, to," Charlie Manuel said before his team's workout Saturday afternoon.

It is amazing to look back four years and see that the Phillies' three starting pitchers when they were swept in three games during their division series with Colorado were Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and Jamie Moyer.

Even when they won the World Series two years ago, the rotation consisted of Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton. Not awful, but not even close to the trio of two Roys and a red-hot Hamels that the Phillies are armed with in this postseason.

"That's definitely different than it has been in the past," rightfielder Jayson Werth said. "It adds confidence, and there is a lot to be said for confidence. Confidence goes a long way in this game."

Hamels is proof of that. He was not a confident pitcher a year ago when the Phillies arrived at the postseason, and that left the Phillies with Cliff Lee as their only stud starter. Still, the Phillies reached the World Series.

Now, Hamels is clearly confident, and it does not hurt that he is going against a team he has dominated in a ballpark where he has been sensational. Hamels' career record against the Reds is 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA in seven career starts. He is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four career starts at this ballpark and struck out a career-high 15 Reds in an April 2007 start here.

"Pitching in this ballpark, they have a great mound and a great setup," Hamels said. "It's similar to Citizens Bank Park, so it can be familiar in that sort of area. But I only get to pitch here once a year, so it could just be the scenario that I was hot that month and I happened to pitch in Cincinnati."

Perhaps it's just a coincidence, too, that this is the fourth time in his career that Hamels has had a chance to close out a postseason series. The team is 3-0 and he has a 3.12 ERA in those previous three opportunities, including Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.

Now, he has a chance to finish off the first postseason sweep in franchise history.

"I think I've been fortunate enough to be in those situations where it has been a clinching game and I've been able to do well," Hamels said. "But at the same time, we have to score runs. But to be able to pitch in the postseason, I think that's a special moment in itself."

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