Hamels adds another playoff gem to resume
Lefty notches third postseason shutout in Phillies history
CINCINNATI -- It's hard to top what Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay did against the Reds on Wednesday, when he pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history.
But teammate Cole Hamels came close Sunday night, pitching a shutout in a 2-0 victory against Cincinnati in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Great American Ball Park. It helped Philadelphia advance to the NL Championship Series for the third year in a row.
"When you throw a shutout like he did, that's big," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Hamels became the third pitcher -- Halladay and Curt Shilling are the others -- in Phillies history to pitch a shutout in the postseason.
"It's special, but there are a lot more moments out there and I think that's winning a World Series," Hamels said after learning about what he accomplished.
Hamels has a lot of postseason experience. He was at his best in 2008, when the Phillies won their first World Series title since 1980. He won the NLCS and World Series MVPs by going a combined 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts. He won Game 5 of the NLCS over the Dodgers to send the Phils to the World Series.
However, Hamels believes Sunday's start may top what he did two years ago.
"When you are able to finish a game, it's something special, especially moving on to the next round," Hamels said. "Being able to go out there, make my pitches, take your win, you can't take that away from us."
How dominant was Hamels against the Reds, the National League's best hitting team? He struck out nine batters, and at one point during the game, retired 16 out of 18 hitters between the second and seventh innings and Reds hitters reached second base only twice.
"You know, I think I was able to really establish my fastball early," Hamels said. "I was able to hit my spots away. ... I know what I can have with my changeup. That makes that pitch harder to hit because you have to look for two different speeds. And then I'm able to hit my spots, and I think that helps."
To Halladay, Hamels' most impressive inning occurred in the ninth. Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips started the inning off with a single, but he was quickly erased when Joey Votto -- the potential tying run -- hit into a double play. Scott Rolen then struck out to end the game.
"To get the leadoff guy on and then get the MVP [Votto] to hit into a double play. It was a big situation there where one swing of the bat could tie the game. That was pretty impressive," Halladay said.
Hamels believes the momentum switched in the Phillies' favor in the bottom of the first inning. With a runner on first and no outs, Phillips hit a ball that appeared to be a double in the gap, but center fielder Shane Victorino made a great running catch for the first out of the inning. To Hamels, the catch was a momentum changer and it was smooth sailing after that.
"That was a good catch. That's why Shane is in center field," Hamels said. "I saw it and I was like, 'OK, that was probably one of the best catches.'"
The odds were in Hamels' favor to beat the Reds. Entering Sunday's game, he was 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA in seven starts against the Reds. That dominance continued at Great American Ball Park.
For the series, the Phillies' pitchers had the fewest hits (10) ever allowed in a Division Series. The dominance had Reds manager Dusty Baker comparing the Phillies' pitching staff to other dominant staff of the past.
"Been a long time, probably so far back as the Baltimore Orioles, maybe, when they had [Jim] Palmer, [Dave] McNally, [Mike] Cuellar," Baker said. "I mean, they really pitched. [The Phillies] are a very good team. We kept 'em in the ballpark, so to speak, kept the runs down. We just didn't push across enough runs."
According to Halladay, Hamels is more than just a great pitcher on a great rotation. He is a humble person off the field. It was Hamels, a postseason veteran, who made Halladay feel comfortable the moment he was acquired from the Blue Jays last December.
"Once the season started, he is a guy that grew on me a lot," Halladay said about Hamels. "Just watching him all year, I expected to see a lot from him. He has outdone my expectations, that's for sure. His demeanor, the way he carries himself, he is a humble guy, but you could see the confidence. Throughout this whole year -- good or bad -- he is the same guy every day. That is very hard to do. He is very good at it."
Hamels is also good at being a big-game pitcher.