LOS ANGELES - The warning light on Cole Hamels' gas gauge was on. He was in the midst of an arduous 26-pitch seventh inning. There were two men on base and the Los Angeles Dodgers were threatening. Former National League MVP Jeff Kent was at the plate.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel went to the mound and looked Hamels in the eye. Ryan Madson was ready in the bullpen, but Manuel stuck with Hamels.
In the fifth inning, Hamels had struck out Kent on a change-up. This time, the count went to 2-2 and Hamels reached back for everything he had left. His 104th and final pitch of the night was a dart, a 94-m.p.h. fastball, over the plate. Kent thought it was low. Home plate umpire Mike Winters called it a strike.
The biggest out of Hamels' life helped the Phils win the clinching Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, 5-1, last night. Now Hamels gets ready to start Game 1 of the World Series.
It was a good omen when Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a homer. He also led off the division series clincher in Milwaukee with a tone-setting bomb.
Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley had Rollins 0-2 but let him get away. Rollins worked the count full and hit a high, 3-2 fastball into the right-field pavilion. (That's SoCal for bleachers.)
The Phils, who led the NL with 214 homers, are occasionally maligned for being overly reliant on home runs and not capable of manufacturing runs. They got a nice blend of both approaches in the early innings. Rollins' first-inning blast was their 10th homer of the postseason.
Two innings later, they went up 3-0 with a couple of assembly-line runs. Rollins walked with one out and stole second with a terrific head-first dive around Blake DeWitt's tag. (The throw beat Rollins.) With two outs, Chase Utley drew a full-count walk and Billingsley had to pitch to Ryan Howard with men on first and second. Howard rifled a 2-2 slider to right, scoring Rollins. Pat Burrell followed with a single to right, scoring Utley. Both runs came with two outs.
Will get you to the World Series. Twenty-five of the Phils' 40 runs in this postseason have come with two outs.
Billingsley didn't make it through the third inning. The Dodgers pitcher in the fourth was Greg Maddux. He was the losing pitcher (for the Braves) the last time the Phils won an NLCS clincher, Game 6 in 1993.
Hamels was presented with a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. In the bottom of the inning, he began to pitch in a way that made you think, "This might be enough." He sailed through that frame on 10 pitches, striking out Andre Ethier swinging at a change-up that almost caused Ethier's hips to come out of their sockets.
Hamels and catcher Carlos Ruiz opened the bottom of the fourth with some smart pitch selection against Manny Ramirez. The Dangerous One was locked and loaded, looking to make a quick strike and wake up his team. Hungry for a fastball, Ramirez got out in front of a first-pitch change-up and grounded to third baseman Pedro Feliz, who was in the lineup for his defense. Hamels got all three outs in the fourth on change-ups.
Utley has great instincts, the kind that can't be taught. They showed in the fifth inning as Rafael Furcal was personally gift-wrapping the pennant for the Phils. Utley was on second when Pat Burrell hit a ball into the hole at short. Furcal booted the ball a few feet into the outfield and Utley took off for home, scoring the Phils' fourth run. Utley didn't wait for third-base coach Steve Smith to wave him in. He stole a quick glance at Furcal before reaching third and made the decision to go. Furcal made a second error on the play with a wild throw and spent the next few minutes with his glove on his hip, apparently upset. He threw away another ball before the inning ended and that resulted in another run.
Leading by 5-0, Hamels allowed two singles to open the bottom of the fifth. Tommy Lasorda rose from his box seat and white-toweled the crowd into a frenzy. Hamels rolled a killjoy double play, started nicely by Utley, then got Kent swinging at dead-fish change-up off the plate to end the threat and quiet the crowd.
Hamels lost his shutout with two outs in the sixth when Ramirez hit a 1-2 fastball over the right-field wall. Ruiz practically stood up, calling for the pitch to be out of the strike zone. It was high, but not high enough and Ramirez unloaded on it. The key to containing Ramirez is to pitch to him with no one on base. By getting the first two outs, Hamels was able to do that and the solo homer left him only with a small bruise that will heal by the time the World Series starts.