Despite tough '09, Hamels capable of big October
Cole Hamels started Game 2 of the National League Division Series last Thursday. And that wasn't the most memorable part of his day.
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No, that occurred at the Philadelphia hospital where his wife, Heidi, gave birth to the couple's first child.
Or maybe during his ride there — in a police cruiser.
"The best cop ride I've ever been part of when I wasn't in the back," Hamels recalled Wednesday, drawing laughter from reporters on the eve of the National League Championship Series.
"That was pretty exciting on the streets of Philadelphia."
Hamels didn't beat the Rockies that afternoon, but there's no reason to dwell on that. His teammates won the other three games in the series and advanced to the NLCS for a second consecutive year.
Hamels stayed behind in Philadelphia while his teammates clinched the series with two riveting wins in Denver. The left-hander was working out at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, when the all-better-now Brad Lidge ended their series with a strikeout of Troy Tulowitzki.
Hamels would have started Game 5, but the thoughtful defending champs saved him the trouble. With congratulatory text messages pinging from phone to phone, the new dad enjoyed a little more time at home with young Caleb Michael.
"As much as I wanted to be there with my teammates, it helped ease it a little bit, just the fact that I was able to be part of something special," Hamels said. "The organization allowed me to be there. I definitely have to thank them. Most guys don't have that opportunity to be there for the couple days that I was."
"Fortunately," Phillies utility man Greg Dobbs said, "we didn't need him."
Now, it's time to pitch again. Rather than Game 5 against the Rockies, Hamels will have Game 1 against the Dodgers on Thursday evening.
Hamels, a San Diego native, said he loves pitching in California. No surprise there. He won both his starts in last year's NLCS, including the clincher at Dodger Stadium. Then he threw a five-hit shutout at Chavez Ravine on June 4.
His career ERA against the Dodgers: 1.50.
"He's good, he's good," Manny Ramirez said Wednesday. "He's got a good fastball. He can locate his fastball. He's got a good changeup, a good curveball.
"When he's got those three pitches working, he's unhittable."
But that hasn't been the case often in 2009. Hamels had a so-so regular season that included elbow, shoulder and ankle woes. He awoke on Sept. 1 with only seven victories. The 4.32 ERA was the worst of his career. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel described Hamels' season as "a year where strange things happened to him."