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Preview: Hamels and Cain Square Up in NLCS Game Three

(Sports Network) Cole Hamels hopes to follow up his brilliant performance in the Division Series this afternoon when the NLCS shifts to San Francisco for a pivotal Game 3 between the Philadelphia Phillies and Giants at AT&T Park.

Hamels was absolutely terrific for the Phils in the NLDS, as he struck out nine batters in a five-hit shutout to seal the three-game sweep against the Reds back on Ocotber 10.

The 2008 World Series and NLCS MVP, who was 12-11 in the regular season with a 3.06 ERA, is now 6-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 11 playoff starts.

“Postseason is where it’s at,” Hamels said. “It’s the ultimate time to really show what kind of player you are, what kind of pitcher you are. These are the types of games and types of moments when you set foot in spring training it’s the ultimate goal for the whole team to go out and enjoy.”

Hamels is 4-2 lifetime against the Giants, but has pitched to a 6.12 ERA in his four starts at AT&T Park. In two starts against them this season, he was 0-1 and surrendered nine runs in 11 innings.

The Phils can only hope that Hamels is as effective as Roy Oswalt was in Game 2. Oswalt tossed eight dynamite innings of one-run ball to help the Phillies pull even with the Giants behind a 6-1 decision at Citizens Bank Park.

Oswalt (1-0) fanned nine and gave up only three hits and three walks, throwing 71 of his 111 pitches for strikes in the longest postseason start of his career. He also singled and scored in Philadelphia’s four-run seventh inning.

The only definitive mistake the 2005 NLCS MVP made on the mound was serving up a home run to Cody Ross, whose two round-trippers off Roy Halladay in Game 1 helped give the Giants a 4-3 victory for the early series edge.

The Phillies, who are vying to become the first NL team to reach the World Series in three straight years since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals, have never won a playoff series after losing the initial contest, but managed enough offense, namely a two-hit, four-RBI performance from Jimmy Rollins, who entered the contest with just one hit in his previous 17 at-bats.

“Hopefully, I can take what I did today and just keep it going,” Rollins said. “I was glad I was the person up there at the moment and able to come through.”

Jonathan Sanchez (0-1), moved up in the rotation due to his past successes against the Phils, yielded three runs — two earned — on five hits and three walks in six-plus frames to take the loss.

The Giants now turn to right-hander Matt Cain, as they will host their first League Championship Series contest since 2002 when they won a National League pennant.

“You get used to pitching in tight ballgames like this,” Cain said. “Cole is going to go out there, throw the ball well, and you’re expecting it to be a tight game and a good pitching matchup. So you get used to pitching in close ballgames and understand what the big pressure is like when those key times in the game kind of come about.”

Cain did not get a decision in his Game 2 start in the NLDS against the Braves, but he pitched well, allowing just an unearned run in 6 2/3 innings of a game eventually lost by the bullpen. That start, though, came back on October 8

“Matt’s been throwing,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s been getting his work in. It’s part of the schedule. It’s been a while since their guy’s thrown, too, so you’re on a level playing field there. Just like it was … before we started playing [this series]. I thought it was pretty impressive how the two teams played that first game [on Saturday] despite the time that we had to wait to play that game.”

Cain, who was 13-11 with a 3.14 ERA this season, has never beaten the Phillies, posting an 0-3 mark with a 6.23 ERA in five starts.

“It’s definitely exciting to be able to start off these three games at home,” said Cain. “It will be fun to be able to get this thing started in front of our home crowd.”

The Phillies split their six matchups with the Giants this season and since the start of the 2000 campaign, the teams are 36-36 against one another in the regular season.

Despite both teams being original NL franchises, this is the first-ever postseason matchup between the two.