Subdued is a good word to describe the celebration on the mound and in the Phillies clubhouse Sunday, after Cole Hamels led the team to a third consecutive chance at the National League pennant. A stream of excited, but emotionally stable Phils flowed out of the dugout and huddled around Hamels before forming their signature regular season high five line and heading back to the clubhouse.
A team of postseason veterans knows to cherish the moment every time, but for them they know the stuff worth celebrating is coming down the line.
Corks were popped and champagne showers certainly weren’t absent in the visitor’s clubhouse at Great American Ballpark, after Hamels struck out the former Phillie and current public enemy Scott Rolen, but there was a obvious level of awareness of what is still ahead.
It’s tough to match what happened in South Philadelphia Wednesday night. But as far as postseason pitching performances go, King Cole came pretty darn close in his complete game, five hit shutout of the Cincinnati Reds’ Sunday.
Hamels was brilliant, simply put, dazzling Reds hitters with his cutter then putting them away with his nasty, signature change.
“He used all of his pitches. He had good command and was very aggressive,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “His stuff was real good. He had a good cutter and had a good changeup.”
The league’s most storied offense looked simply overmatched, both against Hamels and Roy Halladay, who threw only the second no-hitter in postseason history. The only Phils pitcher the Reds got to was Oswalt, but then crumbled defensively, allowing the Phils to come from behind and win in Game 2.
In Game 3, it was a different story. A somewhat quiet Phils offense managed to scratch just two runs out, but the scoring, coupled with Hamels’ masterpiece was enough to send the team back to the NLCS for the third consecutive season.
The offense got started on a first inning error by a late-addition to the starting lineup, Orlando Cabrera, who’s throw pulled Joey Votto off the first base bag, allowing Placido Polanco to score. In the fifth, the Phils added to the lead when Chase Utley blasted a solo shot into the first row in right-center. The ball was just over the head of a leaping Jay Bruce and off the glove of a fan who did not lean over into the playing field to make the play.
“I’m never dissapointed if a “W” comes out of it. That’s our main objective,” Manuel said. “Do I want us to score more runs? Of course. And we’re definitely capable of it. When we start, someone’s in trouble and we’re gonna start sooner or later.”
The Phillies will have to wait though, the opening game of the NLCS begins Saturday, which puts the layoff at six days. Pitching coach Rich Dubee has already made plans for simulated games throughout the week, according to reports. As for the manager? He doesn’t see the layoff as being an issue.
“People will say the layoff bothers you. If you do good they say the layoff doesn’t hurt you. You know us, I don’t think were going to start making excuses.”
The Phils will have to wait for their opponent, as the Braves and Giants continue to battle it out. But no matter who prevails, they’ll have their hands full with this bunch.
Whoever is next will just serve as a speedbump, as an unprecedented level of focus on their ultimate goal since November remains constant. Nothing short of a World Championship will suffice for this year’s Phillies and with the way they’re playing now, it’s looking like we could see another parade down Broad Street.