In the biggest start of his life, Cole Hamels pitched arguably the best game of his life.
That might sound like hyperbole, but against a lineup that smacked around lefthanders at a .269/.348/.458 clip during the regular season, Hamels put up eight innings of scoreless, two-hit, one-walk ball, striking out nine. (And for the sake of my stomach lining, seeing him go for the complete game might have been nice.)
In earning the first Phillies postseason win since Curt Schilling's 147-pitch (!) effort in Game Five of the 1993 World Series, Hamels silenced the doubters who had pointed to his so-so performances in two earlier tests: last year's playoff opener and his early-September showdown against the Mets and Johan Santana. This was the biggest of stages, and he stood taller than any Phils pitcher since Schilling on that October night fifteen years ago. Signs of Hamels' growing maturity--staying healthy thanks to great diligence in his pre- and post-game conditioning, staying focused despite a painful lack of offensive support for a six-week stretch over the summer--have been evident all year. Today was the payoff, and perhaps the coming-out party of Philadelphia's next legendary pitcher.
As for the offense, they were opportunistic and patient in key spots, taking advantage of shoddy defense and Yovanni Gallardo's wildness to score three runs in the third inning. But against a supposedly shaky Milwaukee bullpen, they went down quietly again and again, putting just one runner in scoring position. With CC Sabathia looming tomorrow, a quick turnaround seems unlikely--but eventually the bats will have to deliver if the club is to play deep into the month.
Three runs and four hits won't often be enough. Thanks to Hamels--and to Brad Lidge, making huge pitches when he absolutely needed to--it was today.