After evening NLCS, Phils look for lefty to keep momentum
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The National League Championship Series took a break on Monday after the teams moved three time zones west, giving left-hander Cole Hamels a chance to watch another southpaw work an LCS Game 3.
Count Hamels as a fan of the Yankees' Andy Pettitte.
"I just want to have his postseason career," Hamels said. "That would be great. ... That's something special right there."
Hamels has a lot of work to do. After his loss to the Rangers in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Pettitte is 19-10 in a remarkable 42 starts. Pettitte already had more playoff wins, starts and innings (263 and counting) than any pitcher in history.
Key stat: 1.82 ERA in final six regular-season starts
Key stat: Had 2.91 ERA in second half
2010: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA Career: 11 GS, 6-3, 3.36 ERA
2010: 1 GS, 0-0, 0.00 ERA Career: 1 GS, 0-0, 0.00 ERA
At AT&T PARK
2010: 1 GS, 0-0, 6.00 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 2-1, 6.12 ERA
2010: 17 GS, 8-4, 2.76 ERA Career: 90 GS, 33-30, 3.15 ERA
Against this opponent
2010: 2 GS, 0-1, 7.36 ERA
Career: 8 GS, 4-2, 4.67 ERA
2010: 1 GS, 0-0 4.50 ERA Career: 5 GS, 0-3, 6.23 ERA
Loves to face: Aubrey Huff (1-for-7, 5 Ks) Hates to face: Cody Ross (9-for-30, 4 HRs)
Loves to face: Shane Victorino (2-for-8)
Hates to face: Chase Utley (7-for-14, 3 HRs)
Why he'll win: Young lefty always steps up in October
Why he'll win: Feed off frenzied home crowd
Pitcher beware: Top of Giants order has good number against him
Pitcher beware: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard have hit him hard in the past
Bottom line: October ace
Bottom line: Workhorse
But Hamels is at work building his own resume. His Phillies have played into October in four of the five seasons since Hamels debuted in 2006. He'll enter his NLCS Game 3 start on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET, FOX, Postseason.TV) -- with the series tied at 1 following the Phils' 6-1 win in Game 2 -- with a 6-3 record and a 3.36 ERA in 11 playoff starts. He was the MVP of both the 2008 NLCS and World Series.
When Hamels starts Tuesday, he will become only the 33rd pitcher in Major League history to make 12 postseason starts. The introduction of the Wild Card, and thus a third postseason round, in 1995, has helped players like Hamels. Twenty of the 32 pitchers who have made at least 12 postseason starts have pitched in the Wild Card era.
On the other hand, Hamels is only 26 years old.
"Watching what he's done, it's great," Pettitte said on Sunday in New York, where the Yankees and Rangers were working out at Yankee Stadium. "I saw him last year live and I would say he looked twice as good the other day when I saw him pitch in Cincinnati [in the NL Division Series], as far as how crisp his stuff was and stuff like that.
"He's doing a great job, he's having a lot of success. Obviously, you can tell he's pitching with a lot of confidence."
Hearing those kind words from Pettitte might boost Hamels' confidence even higher, and why not? After an up-and-down 2009 season that saw Hamels' ERA inflate to 4.32 and his strikeout total fall to 168 -- the poorest numbers of his four full seasons -- he rebounded in '10 to lower his ERA to a career-best 3.06 and boost his strikeout count to a career-high 211.
"He came back with a mission, and that was to tell everybody, 'Hey, don't forget about me,' " outfielder Shane Victorino said. "He came out with a vengeance."
Manager Charlie Manuel figures that Hamels' best years are to come.
"I think he's stronger," Manuel said, "and I think he has more [of an] arsenal, more equipment, more pitches.
"The other night [in the Phillies' clinching Game 3 of the NL Division Series] if you go back and look, the last out he got on Scott Rolen, you can't pitch a hitter better than that. The way he set him up, the way he went in and out, what he threw him, up and down. I'm sitting in the dugout watching him, and I'm thinking, and all of a sudden, he throws him a high fastball and throws the ball right by him."
What did Hamels learn during his relatively trying 2009?
"That baseball is a tough game," he said. "Sometimes you think you can master it, but unfortunately [there is the] old saying where it can throw you a curveball, and you have to make the best adjustments.
"If it's getting physically stronger or mentally trying to prepare better for a game and my opponent, I think that's really where I've been able to take off. Once you're able to do that, you gain back your confidence. I think in this game, confidence can go a lot further than talent. It's knowing that you can go out there and get the job done no matter what the circumstances are, what the weather is, if you're at home, away, who is in the lineup. That's really what can push people to become even better. I think that's what it's done. I've gained a lot more confidence in myself."
Pettitte has been watching the process from afar. Call it the brotherhood of Major League left-handers.
"It's fun to watch some young guys coming up in the league," Pettitte said. "I remember being at that stage in my career and just idolizing the guys that were up here, and wanting to be like Jimmy Key when he was with the Yankees and stuff like that.
"All it means," Pettitte added with a laugh, "is you're getting old, whenever all the lefties on the other team are coming wanting to talk to you. But it's fun. It's been fun for me."
The Phillies and Yankees could meet in the World Series, but first the Phils have to get past the Giants and the Yankees past the Rangers. Philadelphia held Hamels for Game 3 to let Roy Oswalt -- he of a 9-0 lifetime record at Citizens Bank Park -- work at home in Game 2. That means Hamels will work amid a sea of orange-and-black-clad Giants fans.
Perhaps he'll channel Pettitte.
"He's been able to get the job done, and he hasn't let the postseason faze him," said Hamels, who went 0-1 in two starts against San Francisco this year, allowing nine runs over 11 innings.
That's difficult to do sometimes.
"It's a big difference trying to adjust to more media attention, interviews, just having more people aware," Hamels said. "The excitement level going around the cities. ... How to prepare to having so many days off. It takes some time to get used to that, and once you do, you want to enjoy it.
"That's kind of where we are as a team. We're enjoying it, but we also know we have to get down to business."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. MLB.com reporter Brittany Ghiroli contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.