Hamels Sends Phillies to NLCS

If the Phillies are trying to avoid having the most irrelevant bullpen in post-season history, they’re not doing a great job of it. The bullpen tossed a sum total of four innings in the three NLDS games against the Cincinnati Reds as Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels each tossed complete game shut-outs, dominating the National League’s highest-ranked offense in a series sweep.

Tonight, Hamels played the part of surgeon, masterfully dissecting the Reds’ tough lineup. Reds base runners reached second base just twice all night, and never had a runner reach third base safely. Hamels’ game score of 86 ties a post-season career high, matching his outing in Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers. However, he notched his first career playoff CG SHO tonight in the series clincher — the first time the Phillies have ever brought out the brooms in a post-season series.

The offense did not have to do any heavy lifting for Hamels, scoring merely two runs against Johnny Cueto in his five innings of labor. In the first inning, the Phillies capitalized on yet another defensive miscue by a Reds defender, a throwing error by Orlando Cabrera. Chase Utley tacked on another run with a solo home run in the fifth inning. The Cincinnati bullpen held the Phillies in check for four innings, allowing only two hits and striking out four, in their effort to keep the game manageable.

Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce were the lone Reds that appeared to have brought their bats to the playoffs, finishing the series with an OPS of 1.000 and 1.025, respectively. Likely NL MVP award winner Joey Votto was held to one hit in his ten at-bats. The meat of the Reds’ lineup, the 3-4-5 hitters, went 1-for-11 with five strikeouts. The 11 total hits the Phillies allowed in the three-game set is the lowest in Division Series history for any three-game series.

Many statistics will illustrate how dominant Hamels was tonight, but perhaps none will do so as vividly as this: of the 33 change-ups he threw against the Reds, he induced 12 whiffs (36 percent). Overall, he had a total of 17 whiffs — exactly as many as Halladay induced in Game One with his no-hitter.

Going into the NLDS, the starting rotation was viewed as the Phillies’ biggest strength. And despite a lackluster effort from Roy Oswalt, that was exactly the case.

As the Phillies wait for their NLCS opponent to emerge, the starting rotation will have nearly a week off and the lightly-used bullpen will be plenty fresh. This is about as advantageous a position as a team can be in during the post-season. The Phillies now need just four wins to advance to the World Series. Should they do so, they would be the first National League team to reach the World Series in three consecutive years since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals.