Phillies hope to cash in with Hamels
Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 7:01 pm
By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Favorites to win it all, the Philadelphia Phillies are banking on Cole Hamels’ big-game background in St. Louis.
The 27-year-old lefty was the 2008 World Series MVP and has six career postseason victories heading into a Game 3 matchup Tuesday against the Cardinals and Jaime Garcia. With the best-of-five NL division series tied at one apiece, this is not a stage likely to rattle Hamels.
“He’s got that instinct when he gets on the mound, that put-’em-away instinct,” teammate Hunter Pence said Monday. “The big-moment pitcher.”
The youngest member of an all-world Phillies rotation, Hamels seemed pretty calm going into his pivotal start. Besides all that postseason experience, half of his 14 victories came on the road this year.
“Every time I go out I try to win, no matter what the circumstance is — five games, seven games, three games or one game,” Hamels said. “It’s just going out there. I know I have a job to do.”
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expects a loose, confident team behind Hamels. Philadelphia must win at least one of the two games in St. Louis to bring the series back home.
“This is supposed to be a lot of fun,” Manuel said. “It’s up to us to get it done, but at the same time play nice and relaxed.”
His players, at least most of them, can lean on their extensive October experience. The Phillies have won the NL East the last five years.
“It makes it a lot easier on me, this being my first playoff series,” Pence said. “All these guys have been through it and everyone’s very poised.
“This team has a lot of poise, a lot of confidence and a lot of calmness.”
A potential red flag for Hamels: a spotty September in which he allowed nine home runs in 38 innings. He said some were poor pitches and some were the result of good hitting, and realizes it’s time to dial it in.
“Anytime in the postseason, one pitch can really decide the fate of a game,” Hamels said. “But at the same time, I’m going to be aggressive.”
A travel day gave the Cardinals a welcome chance to recharge their bullpen. Six relievers helped St. Louis tie the series Sunday night, and if Garcia falters in his first postseason appearance, there’s plenty of arms manager Tony La Russa can count on.
The Phillies held a late afternoon workout, about an hour after the start time for Game 3. Shadows could be a factor, especially early, with the pitcher in sunlight and the plate in shadows.
“Not much you can do about it,” La Russa said. “It’s just a fact of postseason baseball, and even some regular-season games.”
The Cards’ lineup again is likely to be minus cleanup man Matt Holliday, who visited a specialist for inflammation on his right middle finger that makes it painful to throw or grip a bat.
Allen Craig would get the start in place of Holliday. He’s played right field the first two games, with Lance Berkman moving to left.
The wild-card Cardinals, who qualified on the final day of the season, are very much alive because of the hitters who kept attacking Cliff Lee to erase a four-run deficit in Game 2, and because of the pitchers who picked up the pieces after ace Chris Carpenter faltered while pitching on three days’ rest.
Published in The Messenger 10.4.11