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Cole Hamels Can Make or Break World Series Title for Phillies

Lost in the busy NFL Sunday (to everyone except Phillies and Reds fans) was how well Cole Hamels pitched for the Phillies giving them the NLDS sweep. The 26-year-old southpaw was sensational throwing a complete game shutout against the National League’s most potent offense during the regular season. Because of the team’s additions of Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, Hamels has slipped into the number three starter role and seems to be more of the forgotten man on the staff. Not anymore.

Hamels was in top form retiring the Reds on nine strikeouts, nine groundouts, and nine fly outs in a 2-0 win. He allowed just five hits throwing 119 pitches, 82 of which were strikes. Even when it appeared as if he might get into trouble late in the game, Hamels got the ground ball double-play when it was needed.

As hard as I was on Cole Hamels last year — he self-admittedly came into the season unprepared — it can’t be forgotten how good he can be and how clutch he was in 2008. When they won the World Series, Colbert was simply sensational going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five postseason starts, all wins by the Phillies. There’s a reason his success got to his head that off-season, and it’s because he garnered fame for stepping up and pitching like a stud.

Phillies fans are enthralled by the H20 combination on the pitching staff — Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt — that makes them the World Series favorite. We’ve already seen Hamels pitch the team to a title in 2008, and now they also have Roy Halladay who threw a no-hitter in his post-season debut. If Hamels continues to show what he did Sunday night and pitches back to 2008 form, this team will be awfully difficult to beat. He may very well pitch them to their second World Series title in three years.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NL Playoff Preview and Players to Watch

Also check out Alan Hull’s AL Playoff Preview

As the season wraps up and the National League contenders begin to separate themselves from one another, here is a look at some key players to watch down the stretch and through October.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Derrek Lee: There is no better way to add zeroes to the back of your next contract than to perform in the post-season when the stakes are the highest and all of baseball is watching. Lee will be looking to sign one last lucrative contract after this season. He had an opportunity to reinvent himself upon being traded to Atlanta, with the hopes he would replace some of the production lost when Chipper Jones went down. Lee responded by hitting a decent .289/.375/.433 since the trade. He will get another chance to start over in October and a few big hits will go a long way for his financial future.

Tommy Hanson: Tim Hudson has had a big season for the Braves, but has faded a bit down the stretch. Hanson, however, is the Braves most talented pitcher and has flown under the radar due to a mediocre win-loss record. This post-season may be a coming-out party for the 23-year-old future ace.

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Cole Hamels and Brett Myers Get Into it After Game 5

Brett Myers and Cole HamelsTwo LBS favorite characters, Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, managed to create the ultimate story when their paths crossed after Game 5 in the Phillies locker room. According to Yahoo! Sports, the two had a heated moment in the clubhouse after the Phillies beat the Yankees 8-6 to extend the series. Tim Brown explains:

As Myers walked past Hamels near Hamels’ locker he said, mocking, “What are you doing here? I thought you quit.”

Hamels, the witness said, responded with an expletive.

Before the situation escalated, Myers was guided away by a team official.

Normally Myers’ big mouth and inability to restrain himself results in stupid remarks, but here he did indeed call out the right person. Hollywood Hamels went too Hollywood over the offseason and it’s cost him. After being so dominant in the postseason last year, Hamels took off the offseason to enjoy himself and capitalize on his new found fame. He admitted he came into the season unprepared and that it caused him elbow problems in spring training. The problem is that Cole got selfish, forgetting he’s still a baseball player with an obligation to be the ace of an awesome team. Everyone else came into the season prepared but he didn’t, and he let them down with his lack of preparation. Right now he’s costing them big time in the playoffs. Hamels needs to make it up to everyone with a gem in Game 7, that way it will “finally be over” for him. I think the dude’s ultimately learned his lesson.

By the way, I was on Charlie Manuel’s side for holding Cliff Lee until Game 5. Even if the Yankees won with Sabathia in Game 4, the Phils had the advantage in Games 5 and 6 with Lee and Pedro on full rest while Burnett and Pettitte are on short rest. Then it could wind up coming down to a Game 7 with CC and Hamels. Maybe the Yankees need to buy another starting pitcher in the offseason. Or maybe they’ll just win in six.

Don’t Let the Winning Get to Your Head, Cole Hamels

I’ll be the first one to give Cole Hamels some props for pitching lights out in the playoffs. The guy nutted up and was probably the biggest reason the Phillies won the World Series. Still though, I’m not sure that dominance should give you the right to crap on the Mets (unless your name is Jimmy Rollins). Hamels was on WFAN and was egged on by their hosts from the sounds of things. I urge you to listen to get a flavor for the interview because what players say on the radio gets blown out of proportion by people such as myself. Still, here are how the inflammatory comments read in print:

“Last year and this year I think we did believe that [they were choke artists]. Three years ago we didn’t because they smoked everybody, and I think we all thought they were going to win it all. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. But, yeah, that’s kind of what we believed and I think we’re always going to believe that until they prove us wrong,” Hamels said. “For the past two years they’ve been choke artists.”

It still reads a lot worse than it sounded, but Hamels had several chances to go easy on the Mets and even back off of agreeing with the hosts yet he stood firm. I guess he’s the one with the ring and has the right to say that, but the Mets also have the ability to make him eat his words this year. They’ve signed K-Rod and added J.J. Putz to their bullpen, so they’ve addressed many of their problems. Those moves don’t make them winners, but they do make them better. Here’s to a splendid ’09 baseball season in the NL East!