CINCINNATI – Cole Hamels completed what Roy Halladay started, putting the Philadelphia Phillies back in the N.L. championship series.
Another ace, another dominating performance.
Hamels struck out nine in a five-hitter, Chase Utley homered and the Phillies beat the Reds 2-0 on Sunday night to finish off the franchise’s first playoff sweep.
Philadelphia, trying to become the first N.L. team in 66 years to win three straight pennants, will host San Francisco or Atlanta in the NLCS opener on Saturday.
Halladay opened this matchup with the second no-hitter in postseason history. With Hamels and Roy Oswalt also rested and ready to go for the next round, look out.
“Having three starters definitely helps,” Hamels said. “The playoffs are all about pitching.”
The Reds, making their first postseason appearance in 15 years, committed six errors in the last two games of the series after finishing second in the N.L. with a club-record .988 fielding percentage during the regular season.
The N.L.’s top offense also stalled in three playoff games, managing just 11 hits.
Hamels got Joey Votto to ground into a double play after Brandon Phillips’ leadoff single in the ninth, then struck out Scott Rolen to end the game. The lanky left-hander threw 119 pitches in his first postseason complete game, 82 for strikes.
After Rolen struck out for the eighth time in the series, Hamels pumped his fist and the Phillies celebrated with a few chest bumps and a handshake line before returning to the locker room for more champagne.
Of course, it all looked very routine – Charlie Manuel’s team has practiced this a lot over the past couple of years.
Utley connected against Johnny Cueto in the fifth, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was his 10th career postseason homer, moving him past teammate Jayson Werth and into first on the club’s career list.
Umpires reviewed Utley’s drive to right-center to see if a fan interfered with the ball, but the replays were conclusive and the call was quickly upheld.
Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, increased his perfect mark against Cincinnati to 7-0 in eight career starts. He also improved to 6-3 in 11 postseason outings.
“I have that sort of positive energy every time I come here,” Hamels said.