The left-hander gets the nod when the Phillies face the Washington Nationals on Monday afternoon, a day in which manager Charlie Manuel will raise the club’s latest NL championship flag.
Hamels (1-0, 3.20 ERA) went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the 2008 postseason, earning World Series MVP honors as the Phillies (5-1) captured the second championship in franchise history. However, he struggled last year when Philadelphia’s bid for a repeat fell short against the New York Yankees.
Hamels hasn’t started on opening day in his five-year career. He missed that assignment last year because he was slowed by injuries in spring training.
“The opening day (start) is more prestigious, because it’s your first game,” Hamels said. “This is my second game. The nerves are out. You have a lot of nerves for your first start of the season. You’re like, ‘Hey, it’s another year, this is going to be a great time.’ Once you get that out of the way, you can really bear down and focus. Then it becomes more, ‘What am I going to accomplish this year? What are my goals?’”
Hamels is coming off a difficult 2009, going 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in the regular season and 1-2 with a 7.58 in four postseason starts. In his last start in Philadelphia, Hamels allowed five runs in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-5 loss to the Yankees in Game 3 of the World Series.
After that game, Hamels angered fans and created a stir on talk radio by saying he couldn’t wait for the season to end. He then clarified those remarks and told Manuel he wanted the ball in Game 7, but the series didn’t get that far.
“Pitching in your hometown is the best,” Hamels said. “But you obviously have to go out there and get the job done. It’s another game for us. It’ll be our seventh game. You want to get out on the right foot on opening day, get that first one under your belt. It’s always fun to play at home, being in front of the sellout crowd. There’s definitely excitement in that.”
Hamels had mixed results in his first start, an 8-4 win over the Nationals (3-3) on Wednesday. He threw 103 pitches and allowed two runs in five innings as the Phillies won his sixth straight start against Washington.
Jason Marquis(notes) (0-1, 13.50) will be Hamels’ opponent once again after yielding six runs over four-plus innings in his Nationals debut. Marquis gave up two hits to Chase Utley(notes), who is 10 for 21 against him.
The Phillies have won six in a row at home over the Nationals, who arrive in Philadelphia after taking two of three on the road from the New York Mets over the weekend. Josh Willingham(notes) drove in all of Washington’s runs in a 5-2 victory Sunday, hitting a grand slam in the first inning.
“He’s one of the best players in the National League and we’ll miss him for a couple days, but hopefully it’s only a couple days and we’ll get him back in the lineup,” manager Jim Riggleman said.