It never gets old, does it? The Philadelphia Phillies swept the Cincinnati Reds to reach their third consecutive National League Championship Series.
Cole Hamels made sure the fun would continue for the Phillies faithful, throwing a complete game shutout in the 2-0 series-clinching victory. Hamels was absolutely brilliant, going the distance 119 pitches (82 strikes) while striking out nine Reds without a walk. He changed speeds beautifully all evening, overmatching the Cincinnati order with his mid-90′s fastball, a curveball that was nasty, and a changeup that fooled everyone at Great American Ballpark.
The offense struck early, capitalizing on another defensive miscue by the Reds in the first inning. Placido Polanco scored on a throwing error by shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who earlier in the day was thought to be out of the lineup with an oblique injury. His errant throw, along with Scott Rolen’s bobble in the sixth inning, were the sixth and seventh errors of the series for the Reds, respectively (or disrespectively?).
It was quite an unpleasant series for what was the best defense in the National League during the regular season. Perhaps the postseason jitters were real for this team that somewhat resembles the 2007 version of this Phillies team: young, wet behind the ears, and a overmatched in their first dance in October.
In the fifth inning, Chase Utley hit the first home run of the series for the Phillies – as a team they hit 25 home runs in the 2009 playoffs – to give the Phils a 2-0 lead. The homer wasn’t without controversy. A Reds fan appeared to slightly interfere with centerfield Drew Stubbs, who looked to possibly have a play on the ball. The umpires used instant replay to be sure, and the play was upheld. No red flags were thrown, although white flags should have been waved.
All night, Hamels was completely in control, harkening back to the good old days of 2008. At this point, he may be even better. His fastball had life, his breaking pitches were untraceable. This top three of Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels is just downright scary and the Cincinnati Reds saw that firsthand.
What is slightly worrisome is the Phillies inability to sustain anything with the sticks. In the quick three-game set, the Phils scored 13 runs, six of which were unearned. Basically, the Reds were undone by their breakdowns defensively. And while the Phillies took advantage of those opportunities, they still haven’t been able to use this killer offense to their advantage.
It’s now a long week off as the NLCS begins on Saturday. The opponent is unknown, and won’t be until at least tomorrow night when the Giants and Braves play Game 4 of their series from Atlanta.
What we do know is that we’ll see Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels in some way, shape, or form beginning next weekend at Citizens Bank Park. The wait will be a lengthy one, but for now, enjoy this dynamic and possibly dynastic team.