Cool, calm Hamels in complete control
Phils ace rebounds from '07 NLDS loss with masterful outing
PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels didn't have to rely on an adrenaline rush as he walked to the mound at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday."I'm still waiting for that adrenaline rush," the 24-year-old Phillies lefty said.
Hamels' voice then rose a few decibels as the microphone he was gripping drifted a little too close to his mouth."Sorry," he said, laughing. "Maybe it's kicking in right now." Plenty of questions had been tossed Hamels' way about whether his loss in last year's National League Division Series opener had prepared him to face that stage again. On Wednesday, he wasted no time answering those questions. Hamels turned in eight scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out nine in a 3-1 victory over the Brewers in Game 1. This calm, relaxed Hamels has been appearing more and more often around the ballpark, and seems to be the one who will lead Philadelphia to success this postseason. "I knew the importance of the game," Hamels said. "Because of last year, I learned what it really takes -- kind of mellow out, not have that sort of excitement where you can't really control everything." The Phils' ace did control seemingly everything, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before his perfect game was broken up on a two-out single by Corey Hart in the fifth. It was exactly the kind of clutch performance Philadelphia needed, because its offense was held to just four hits. Hamels' effort will likely go down as one of the best starting pitching performances in club postseason history. Only three Phillies starting pitchers have allowed two or fewer hits in a postseason game, according to baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org. None lasted eight innings, as Hamels did Wednesday. If Hamels felt any pressure as he prepared to start Philadelphia's playoff opener for the second consecutive year, he never showed any outward signs of it. "The way he handles himself is very good," Game 3 starter Jamie Moyer said. "It's very positive. Very upbeat. He hasn't changed. He was no different today than he was in Spring Training, in April, or in July, September. He's the same person. And to me, that's important." To demonstrate Hamels' poise, pitching coach Rich Dubee pointed to the sixth inning. After getting Jason Kendall to strike out, Hamels allowed a single to Craig Counsell and a walk to Mike Cameron. It was the most adversity Hamels had faced all day, but he didn't let it get to him, striking out Bill Hall and getting the dangerous Ryan Braun to pop up and end the inning. "He controlled his emotions," Dubee said. "He got in a big situation there with first and second and one out and a big strikeout. In past games, he probably would have tried to overdo something. But today, he was very much under control."
Just ask the Brewers.
"Not too many times you can say you're happy to see a guy get out of the game and happy to see [Brad] Lidge come in," Brewers manager Dale Sveum said. "I don't know if anybody said that or not. But it was kind of the way the game unfolded there. Obviously, we really didn't hit any balls hard off Hamels pretty much the whole day.
"His power changeup is as good as there is in baseball from any left-hander. And he had a pretty decent breaking ball, even though he didn't throw it a lot, but it's probably the best breaking ball we've seen in a while from what we've seen in our scouting reports and stuff. But, I mean, that changeup is as good as I've seen before, and obviously he had everything working today."
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.