CINCINNATI – If it all looked so familiar, well, there was good reason.
In this world of impulse, it might seem like forever ago that Cole Hamels was on the mound leading the Phillies to the next round of the postseason. Really, though, it had only been 2 years. And if the slender lefthander’s lost season of 2009 was a prerequisite for the pitcher who emerged, then maybe it was all worth it.
Last night, in a 2-0 victory over the Reds that sent the Phillies to their third consecutive National League Championship Series, Hamels was as good as he has ever been. Probably even better.
For three-plus hours on a picture-perfect autumn night, he made the slimmest of leads seem like the widest of chasms. He held the top-scoring team in the National League scoreless for nine innings, scattering five hits, walking none, and striking out nine while leading the Phillies to their first-ever postseason series sweep.
“He definitely has a fire in his eye this year,” leftfielder Raul Ibanez said. “He definitely has a determination. He was determined last year, but this year, he looks like he’s determined every time he goes out there. He’s very aggressive, he pounds the strike zone. He’s always had a lot of confidence, but he’s pitching confidently all year.”
The Phillies, who won all five of their potential clinchers in their two previous postseason runs, needed every ounce of the effort to celebrate another trip to the NLCS, which begins Saturday at Citizens Bank Park against either Atlanta or San Francisco.