(Sports Network) – Cole Hamels tries to pitch Philadelphia into the National League Championship Series for a third straight season this evening when the Phillies attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS.
Despite the series shifting to Great American Ball Park for Game 3, the odds certainly appear to be in Philadelphia’s favor, as every team that has taken a 2-0 lead in NLDS play — which has happened 18 times since Division Series play began in 1995 — has gone on to win the series.
Not to mention that Hamels is 6-0 lifetime against the Reds with a 1.07 earned run average in seven starts, with three of those victories coming in Cincinnati.
“You know, every year the team has been different,” he said. "I think I only remember one person that’s been on the team this whole time, and that’s [second baseman Brandon] Phillips. So you can’t really say much.
“When they change the players around, a guy that you knew you could get out, well, now you got somebody else that you have to research about, and you have to go and get the guy out.”
Hamels, who was 12-11 overall this season with a 3.06 ERA, captured the NLCS and World Series MVP awards back in 2008 when the Phillies claimed their second championship in team history thanks in part to him going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts. However, last season he was just 1-2 in the playoffs with a 7.58 ERA.
“When you say he’s No. 3, I think, ‘Why do we put him in the third game? Doesn’t make him No. 3,’” Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. “We’ve got three guys that are top-of-the-rotation pitchers, and there is an argument where you could basically put them wherever you wanted to. Roy Halladay has stood out this year as far as his wins, innings pitched, but the other two are pretty good, too.”
Philadelphia moved to the cusp of advancing on Friday with a little help from the Reds, as Jayson Werth scored the go-ahead run on an error-filled play in the seventh inning, helping the Phillies to a 7-4 come-from-behind win.
The Reds, who finished second in the NL with a club-record .988 fielding percentage, committed four errors to match a Division Series record and Cincinnati pitchers hit three batters, allowing the Phillies to erase an early 4-0 deficit.
The teams combined for a Division Series-record six errors, as Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley committed two in the second inning. Utley did finish 2-for-4 at the plate with two runs batted in.
The NL East champions won the series opener on Wednesday thanks to a no-hitter thrown by Roy Halladay. Friday’s game was considerably less tidy for Phillies starter Roy Oswalt, who gave up a leadoff home run to Brandon Phillips and had control problems in the early innings. He lasted five innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits and a walk.
But the Phillies bullpen threw four one-hit innings, capped off by a scoreless ninth from Brad Lidge.
Cincinnati, in the playoffs for the first time since 1995, looked to be in position to even the series, as Phillips went 3-for-4 to pace the offense and starter Bronson Arroyo avoided trouble through the first four innings.
Hoping things go a little smoother this evening will be right-hander Johnny Cueto, who was 12-7 this season with a 3.64 ERA, but lost his last three decisions and has just one win since August 4.
Cueto, though, was terrific in his two starts against the Phillies this season, as he went 1-0 and allowed just two earned runs in 15 innings. However, he is 1-2 lifetime in four starts against them with a 5.96 ERA.
Philadelphia’s offense, which has sputtered through the first two games of this series, hitting a mere .203, could get well tonight, as Shane Victorino has hit .500 (5-for-10) with two home runs and three RBI against Cueto, Werth is batting .333 (3-for-9) and Ryan Howard has hit .300 (3-for-10) with one home run and one RBI.
“I just need to concentrate,” Cueto said. “I’m going to be watching the times I’ve been throwing to them, the videos and try to keep the ball down to get the most outs I can.”
The Reds, though, could be without the services of shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who left Friday’s Game 2 loss with a pulled muscle in his left side.
“I think it’s going to be tough for him to play and it’s tough for us, too. We have to make a decision, of course, but it’s tough for us to anticipate, is he going to be well by tomorrow,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re going to wait as long as we can to see, but it’s tough for us to play short, too, which we did a lot this year.”
The Reds took two of three from the Phils in Cincinnati this season.