For eight innings Tuesday, Justin Klugh may have thought he was dreaming. Or he was somehow transported back in time to October 2008…
Cole Hamels was coolly cruising through the playoffs to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series. It was perfect. Eight shutout innings and then…
The score was tied? It’s May 2010? Cole Hamels was distracted again. Yeah, it’s definitely not 2008. Hamels was brilliant for eight innings. Then, he may have lost his focus after a fan ran onto the field for the second straight night. Now, this guy is an idiot. No one was amused. Hamels certainly wasn’t. He was in mid-delivery when the fan hopped the left field fence and ran along the warning track that led to a chorus of boos from the Phillies faithful. No Tasers were used to apprehend this Philly phanatic. Although, Hamels may have wanted to hurt the guy.
“Hamels looked disturbed to have delivery interrupted,” Jon Heyman said via Twitter. “Five pitches after idiot fan interrupted Hamels, he blew 1-0 lead. Not sure, but this guy may have been Bartman’s cousin.” [...]
All kidding aside, Hamels couldn’t catch a break on a night when he absolutely dominated the Cardinals. After the distraction, David Freese and Yadier Molina hit back-to-back doubles to tie the score at one. Hamels handed the ball off to Brad Lidge and would not get the win he deserved. Even after owning the plate for nearly the entire game, there will be questions about Cole’s mental toughness. They’ve been there since last season when he showed up to Spring Training out of shape and out of focus. He even admitted he struggled to focus during less important games with the Padres in April. He’s getting paid millions of dollars to let his mind wander into the clouds? It’s just two or three hours to play the game. Hamels assured everyone October was his time, but it turned out that the fall wouldn’t bring him any magic.
This year, he came to Clearwater ready to roll after a strong offseason. But after five games this year, Hamels was 2-2 with an ERA over 5.00. He was up and down and benefited from some big games from the offense. In his previous start, he only lasted five innings. The questions lingered about whether Hamels would ever be the ace he was for that one fall month.
Tonight, he got it back. He gave up one run, struck out eight, and walked two against a tough St. Louis lineup. The lone run came after the unfortunate interruption.
It was October 2008 again? Brad Lidge was throwing his nasty slider for strikeouts to end the opponent’s rally. Then, Carlos Ruiz rounded the bases after a big home run at Citizen’s Bank Park.
In 2008, he hit a homer in Game 3 of the World Series. Later that night, he hit a walk-off single, driving in Eric Bruntlett for the win. It was the first walk-off win in Phillies history in the World Series…
It’s still 2010. Lidge ended the Cardinals rally and this time, Chooch’s home run was the walk-off. He hit a solo shot in the bottom of the tenth inning to give the Phillies a 2-1 victory. Jose Contreras got the win after pitching the top half of the inning.
The game had the October feel to it, too. The top teams in the National League battled it out with pitching – the key ingredient to playoff success. Adam Wainwright was nearly as good as Hamels and was his equal in the box score. Wainwright pitched eight innings of one-run baseball, while striking out six and walking two. Hamels outdid him until the ninth. Both looked like aces going at it in a late-season matchup.
The Phillies and Cardinals could easily meet again in the NLCS later this year.
Both have solid pitching staffs led by big time starters Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter. Both have explosive lineups. Utley, Howard, and Werth vs. Ludwick, Pujols, and Holliday. Eerily similar. It would make for a great series and matchup when the lights are shining brightest.
Tonight, the pitchers shined. At the plate, Ruiz was the star. He drove in both runs for the Phillies, the first coming on a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Blake Hawksworth took the loss after serving up the deciding blast.