10/02/07 5:33 PM ET
Phillies have complete faith in Hamels
Young ace has blossomed into ace in time for NLDS Game 1
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
While the Colorado Rockies were locking up with the San Diego Padres in the National League Wild Card tiebreaker on Monday night, Hamels went out for the evening. He took in the movie "Good Luck Chuck."
"It wasn't that great," Hamels said of the comedy.
When he got home, he flipped on the TV, and Hamels was more impressed with the ending of the Rockies' comeback 9-8 win in 13 innings at Coors Field.
"I went to a movie last night anyway, because I didn't really want to watch it," Hamels said of the tiebreaker. "But I did come in from the movie and see the eighth, ninth [and extra innings] -- and I was really only focused on left-handed hitters, because I don't really see [them] too often. When you don't really see it, you need that sort of experience to be able to get through them."
Hamels said he can pick up a clue or two from watching on TV.
The Philadephia Phillies are hoping the 23-year-old will have the right touch when he takes the mound in Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday afternoon at 3 ET at Citizens Bank Park.
In a matchup of the top two run-scoring teams in the National League, Hamels is being counted on to slow down the high-powered Rockies.
The lefty from San Diego finished the regular season 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA. At hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, he went 8-2 with a 3.24 ERA. In day games, he is 4-1 (4.26) in eight starts, striking out 41 batters in 44 1/3 innings.
The Phillies paced the NL with 892 runs, while the Rockies scored 860. These two teams by far outdistanced the rest of the league in runs, with the Atlanta Braves ranking third, 50 runs behind Colorado.
An advantage the Phillies hope they have with Hamels is the fact that the lefty got a month to rest his arm due to a mild elbow strain. He went a span from Aug. 16-Sept. 18 without starting.
When he returned from the injury, he predicted it would take about three starts to regain his sharpness. He was right, because he saved his best for his 28th and final start. On Sept. 28, with his team in a must-win situation as they were overtaking the New York Mets, he shut down the Washington Nationals over eight scoreless innings, striking out 13 in the process.
"Having a month off can always do some damage at the end, because when you get to the playoffs, you want to be ready," Hamels said. "Sometimes it takes a couple of games. For myself, I knew it would take me about three [starts] before I was ready to go. It was perfect timing."
In three September starts, Hamels was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA, and the Phillies won two of those outings.
"Basically, he was off for a month and he has a fresh arm," Philadelphia general manager Pat Gillick said. "If we hadn't won the division, we could have probably pointed to the fact of him being out. With him having a fresh arm, it's probably a plus for us heading into the playoffs."
When healthy, Hamels is a true ace, a confident presence who inspires the rest of the team.
"His composure is always pretty good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He gets a little feisty sometimes when he gets taken out of the game. The other day, a lady told me that we had a 'love/hate' relationship. I told the lady, 'I love him. He can hate me all he wants as long as he wins.'
"He's good, and he's going to get better, too. He has a chance to be a real good Major League pitcher."
Hamels' best pitch is his changeup, which goes along with a mid-90s fastball. Lately, he is showcasing a breaking ball to give hitters a third pitch to deal with.
National League Division Series schedule
|Wed., Oct. 3||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||6 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||1 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TNT|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Wed., Oct. 3||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||9:30 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||10 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||6:30 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|* If necessary. All times ET.|
"A lot of guys didn't hit the changeup in the middle of the year, and in the summer, guys were looking for it," Hamels said. "I wasn't getting those strikeouts and those groundouts that I wanted to.
"For me to succeed, and obviously keep my pitch count down, I have to get some outs and keep them off balance."
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins admires Hamels' conviction and confidence.
"When he's on the mound, he's very focused, he's very intense," Rollins said. "He keeps the flow of the game going. He's not one of those pitchers who gets out there, gets rattled, starts stepping off [the rubber] and changes his mind. When he gets up there, his mind is made up on what he wants to do.
"When you have a pitcher like that, you go out and play for him. You don't worry about, 'We have to score six runs because this guy can't hold 'em.' If we get him one run, he's going to find a way to make it work. That's what you want to do -- go out there, give him a chance, get back [in the dugout] and score some more runs."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.