Monday, October 11, 2010

For the Philadelphia Phillies Postseason, It's as Easy as 1-2-3

Philadelpia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels (L) and catcher Carlos Ruiz celebrate their win over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 3 of the MLB National League Division Series baseball playoffs in Cincinnati, Ohio October 10, 2010. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

On a few different fronts, it's as easy as "1-2-3" for the Philadelphia Phillies this postseason. 

Last night, of course, the Phillies dispensed the upstart Cincinnati Reds 1-2-3 in the NLDS. The series sweep was of historic significance as it was the first ever in the post season for the 127-year old organization— at least on the winning end. 

And, the Phillies plan for the 2010 postseason revolves around the rock solid 1-2-3 foundation provided by "The Big Three" trio of ace starters. Cole Hamels fulfilled his part of the plan almost to perfection (a term that cannot be used gratuitously with Roy Halladay on the staff) by tossing a low stress, high gloss five-hit shutout in last evening's clincher. 

Although Phillies players engaged in the customary playoff series clinching champagne celebration, they did so in a manner that suggested they had been there before and still have places to go. 

Wrapping up the division series was but step one in their 1-2-3 postseason formula. Next on the agenda is achieving a similar outcome in the NLCS and then the World Series. 

From the outset of last night's game until the final 95-mph heater that set Scott Rolen down swinging to end the game, Hamels displayed his unwavering determination to execute on those plans. 

In contrast to last season's postseason, "Hollywood" brought a Halladay-like focus to wrap up the series last evening. When asked about his performance, Hamels made it abundantly clear that the NLDS victory was but one step towards the team's goal of bringing another World Series Championship to Philly. 

That type of attitude and pitching performance has to be unnerving to the rest of the postseason field. 

After Shane Victorino made a terrific running catch of a Brandon Phillips liner in the first, Hamels never seemed to break a sweat as he suffocated the Reds high-powered offense. 

When Phillips started the home ninth with a base hit to awaken the Great American Ballpark crowd and provide a sense of hope, Hollywood coolly induced soon-to-be-MVP Joey Votto to ground into a tailor made double play. 

Suddenly, it was as if a huge wet blanket had been dropped from the gaudy orange "Conan" blimp hovering above the stadium. 

Hamels' mid-90's fastball, low-90's cutter, nose-diving change-up, and occasional hook had Reds hitters flailing and guessing all night. Never did he allow a free pass or more than one baserunner in an inning, while racking up nine strikeouts.

The Phillies offense remained somewhat in hibernation as it managed but two runs of support for their ace lefty. One run was again donated by the unexpectedly generous Reds defense, and the other came by virtue of a Chase Utley bomb into the right-center field bleachers. 

Besides the superior pitching of Halladay, Hamels, and the bullpen, the Phillies edge in postseason experience proved to be a large difference in this series. Not to take anything away from an excellent Phillies team, but the Reds were perhaps a little tight. 

Similar to the Phillies in 2007, Cincinnati got a taste of the postseason and appears to have a very bright future. They have a young core of talent that should provide strong offense, defense and pitching over the next few seasons— much like this now-seasoned Philly team. 

In this series, though, the Phillies took care of business 1-2-3 to accomplish step one of their postseason plan. 

With the champagne cobwebs mostly cleared from their heads today, it's now time for the Phillies to focus on step two. 

They will take the wise course of one step at a time, but the big celebration will wait until the postseason plan becomes a matter of 1-2-3.  

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