Third time's the arm: Hamels, Phils sweep DS
Lefty blanks Reds, clinches club's third straight trip to NLCS
CINCINNATI -- Cole Hamels pumped his fist and high-fived a few teammates before he coolly headed to the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park.
There would be no pileup on the field.
There would be no crazy celebration.
The Phillies hope that comes later.
"We know what we're trying to do here," right fielder Jayson Werth said following Sunday's 2-0 victory over the Reds in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. "We've got two more celebrations."
The Phils swept the Reds in the best-of-five series to advance to their third consecutive NL Championship Series, which begins Saturday at Citizens Bank Park against the Giants or Braves.
"To be honest, it feels like we're doing what we're supposed to be doing," closer Brad Lidge said. "This is an incredible run we're on, but we feel like this is what we need to be doing. This is what we should be doing."
The Phillies popped a few bottles of champagne after the game, but they kept things relatively calm. Things have changed since this team won its first NL East title in 14 years in 2007. The Rockies swept the Phillies in the 2007 NLDS, so they went a little crazy when they beat the Brewers in four games in the '08 NLDS.
That victory over the Brewers represented a gigantic hurdle.
They have cleared that hurdle a few times now.
So they enjoyed the moment Sunday, but they kept their focus on unfinished business. This team lost the 2009 World Series in six games to the Yankees, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of the players who returned this season.
They want another shot at the title.
"We're a veteran group of guys," Werth said of the relatively subdued celebration. "We weren't always that way. As much time as we spend together and the type of guys we have on this team, I would say that's what you can expect from us, you know?"
Everybody had expected Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hamels to pitch well against the Reds, who boasted the best offense in the NL this season. But could anybody have expected them to pitch as well as they did? The Phillies set a Division Series record with just 11 hits allowed, besting the 13 hits the Yankees allowed to the Rangers in the 1998 ALDS.
Halladay threw a no-hitter in Game 1 on Wednesday. Oswalt wasn't himself in Game 2, but Hamels looked like the guy who helped the Phillies win the '08 World Series in Game 3.
He allowed five hits and struck out nine in his first postseason shutout.
PHILLY'S PHANTASTIC PITCHING
"This moment right here is just another stepping stone toward the World Series," Hamels said. "The way we were able to do it, we're going to take that energy and that momentum onto the next series. But we do know whoever we play, it's going to be tough."
The Phillies didn't hit the cover off the ball in the series, but they scored enough against a Reds pitching staff where "everybody was throwing 97 mph," according to Werth. The Phils won Game 2, thanks to four Reds errors and five unearned runs.
The Reds helped them again in Game 3 in the first inning.
Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard each singled to put runners on the corners with two outs. Werth followed with a ground ball to Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera threw wide to Reds first baseman Joey Votto to pull him off the base and allow Polanco to score to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
It was the 12th run and sixth unearned run the Phils had scored in the series.
Philadelphia hit some balls hard against Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto, but the score remained 1-0 with two outs in the fifth when Chase Utley stepped up. Reds fans booed Utley throughout the game because he started the Phillies' memorable seventh-inning rally in Game 2 when he pretended Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman hit him with a pitch.
phils' postseason power
Utley faked nothing when he hit a 0-1 slider to right-center field for a solo home run to make it 2-0. It was Utley's 10th career homer in the postseason, which are the most in franchise history.
"I knew I hit it OK," Utley said. "I hit a ball in the first inning I thought I hit better than that one, but lucky for us, the weather is still warm and it's a good hitter's ballpark."
A two-run lead must have felt like 10 with Hamels in a groove. His fastball touched 96 mph throughout the night. It hit 95 when he struck out Scott Rolen to end the game.
"I think he came back with a little chip on his shoulder," Howard said about Hamels, who struggled in the 2009 postseason. "He had a little something to prove. He got back to his old self. He got back out there and executed."
"It was the same guy," Carlos Ruiz said. "It was Cole Hamels."
It was Hamels '08, and that has the Phillies feeling even better about their chances in '10.
"We're not going to be satisfied unless we complete the whole thing," Lidge said.
The Phillies took their second step Sunday. They have two more to go.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.