In an interview with TBS's David Aldridge following today's NLDS game one, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, in his typical understated tone, said, "I thought tonight for us Cole pitched outstanding. He's been doing that lately.
That statement is both completely accurate and also an understatement. Coming into today, Hamels was 5-4 with a 2.72 ERA in his last 11 starts. Today he made those numbers look pedestrian by comparison.
Hamels went eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits, while striking out nine, leading the Phillies to a 3-1 win. He had control of all three pitches, walking just a single Brewer, and was repeatedly able to use his devastating change-up in any count to retire frustrated Milwaukee batters.
A far cry from last year's NLDS game one, in which the Colorado Rockies jumped out early on Hamels, scoring three second inning runs en route to a 4-2 victory, he came out and asserted his dominance from the start. Cole struck out three of the first four batters he faced. He took a perfect game into the fifth inning, before a two-out single by Corey Hart gave the Brewers their first baserunner.
You know the guy was dealing when the Brewers actually seemed relieved to see Brad Lidge come to the mound in the ninth, who, including today, has converted a perfect 42 of 42 save opportunities this season. Lidge was a bit shaky in the last inning, but he struck out the side and got the job done.
All three of the Phillies' runs came in the third inning off starter Yovani Gallardo, who made just four starts during the regular season. He was the first pitcher in history start his team's first playoff game after making fewer than 10 regular season starts.
The Phillies took advantage of a Rickie Weeks error on a Hamels sacrifice bunt, which gave them runner on first and second with no outs in the third. After the next two batters were retired, Chase Utley drove a double to deep center field, just out of the reach of Mike Cameron.
The Utley double plated Carlos Ruiz and Hamels, and ensuing walks to Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell loaded the bases. With the bases juiced, centerfielder Shane Victorino drew the Phillies' third straight walk, forcing in another run.
Those three runs would prove more than enough for Hamels, who was never threatened. He left after eight innings, having thrown 101 pitches, 67 of them for strikes. Lidge closed it out in the ninth.
The win was the Phillies' first postseason victory since game five of the 1993 World Series against Toronto. The Brewers, making their first playoff appearance since 1982, will try to rebound tomorrow. They send ace CC Sabathia to the mound. The Phillies will counter with resurgent right-hander Brett Myers.