One day after a talented left-hander carried the Philadelphia Phillies to another postseason victory, the reigning World Series champions will hope for a repeat performance in Thursday’s Game 2.
Hamels hopes to put his inconsistent regular season behind him and begin another dominating playoff run as the Phillies try to push the Colorado Rockies to the brink of elimination in the teams’ NL division series.
Hamels won’t have to worry about any first-time jitters after going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts last postseason. The southpaw was named MVP of both the NL championship series and the World Series as the Phillies won their first title in 28 years.
The Rockies are the only team that has beaten Hamels in the playoffs. In his first postseason start, he allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-2 loss in Game 1 of the clubs’ division series in 2007.
Colorado went on to sweep that series and win the NL pennant. Hamels has a chance to help the Phillies return the favor, but he’ll have to overcome a rocky finish to an uneven regular season.
He was 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA in his final two starts, finishing 10-11 with a career-worst 4.32 ERA. His season started April 10 with an ugly loss at Colorado in which he allowed seven runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 10-3 defeat.
“I know my teammates know what I’m capable of doing, I know what I’m capable of,” Hamels said. “It’s just a matter of being able to repeat what I can do best, and that’s going out there and trying to set the tone early.”
Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel doesn’t sound concerned about his former ace, who will take the mound in the afternoon after going 0-6 with a 5.44 ERA in nine daytime starts this year.
“I think he’s one of the top pitchers in baseball,” Manuel said. “Cole Hamels can pitch any game for me that he wants. If it gets down to five games, we have a pretty good decision between him and Lee.”
Hamels will try to follow Lee’s lead and shut down a Colorado offense that is suddenly struggling. The Rockies scored three total runs in their final two games of the regular season, losing both to squander a chance at the NL West title.
“I think you tip your cap to (Lee),” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “It’s a five-game series, and obviously we’ve been in this position before … where obviously (Thursday) is a pretty important game because you certainly wouldn’t be looking forward to going back to Denver down two games.”
Cook (11-6, 4.16 ERA) missed most of September with a shoulder injury, but made a successful return, going 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts to close his regular season.
“I think the first game I had a little bit of rust, walked a few guys,” he said. “But after I got past that, I knew my arm was healthy and it was just a matter of trusting that it was healthy and going out there and making my pitches.”
The right-hander’s only previous postseason start came in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, when he returned from injury and held the Red Sox to three runs in six-plus innings but took the loss in Boston’s series-clinching 4-3 victory.
Cook is 1-5 with a 6.02 ERA in eight career starts against the Phillies, and a number of Philadelphia’s left-handed hitters have been successful against him. Jimmy Rollins(notes) (11 for 29), Chase Utley(notes) (8 for 21) and Ryan Howard(notes) (6 for 17) all have averages above .350 when facing the sinkerballer.
The Phillies have now won eight straight postseason games at Citizens Bank Park, while Colorado has lost its last five playoff games overall after getting swept by the Red Sox two years ago.