Hamels dazzles to win NLCS MVP
Teammates awestruck by Phillies ace's big-game prowess
LOS ANGELES -- Jamie Moyer watched his young teammate work, marveling at what Cole Hamels is able to do on the mound. He wasn't the only one.
Hamels wowed Moyer and the rest of his teammates with a second consecutive outstanding performance, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors on Wednesday night. Matched up with another of the NL's finest young hurlers, Chad Billingsley, Hamels was simply brilliant. And Moyer watched with a combination of pride and awe.
"It's a pleasure," said Moyer, at 45 the Yoda of the Phillies' staff. "He's a great kid. He's learned a lot. He's come a long way. He's really matured. He's actually, in my opinion, mature beyond his years. To see him go out tonight and throw the ball the way he did, I think he's well on his way to being a great pitcher."
Hamels didn't just cruise, either. He had a couple of innings where he steamrolled the Dodgers on Wednesday night, but his greatest moments came when he got in trouble. With two on and one out in the second inning, he induced a critical double play from Blake DeWitt. With two on and no out in the fifth, he got another DP ball from DeWitt, then struck out Jeff Kent.
And on the biggest pitch of his life, he fanned Kent again with two on and two out in the seventh.
"Cole is a big-game pitcher," said Ryan Howard. "It takes a lot to come here and pitch in these guys' home park, with their backs against the wall, knowing they've got to come out swinging. Cole is a guy who answered the challenge."
Hamels finished the NLCS with a 2-0 mark and a 1.93 ERA. He struck out 13 and walked five in 14 innings.
Hamels was a man in demand after the game on Wednesday, giving one interview after another while trying to celebrate with his teammates. At one point he ducked out into the hallway to oblige a TV outlet, and jokingly chided the assembled media not to steal his crystal trophy.
Still, along with giddiness was a real sense of the moment. It's the Phillies' first pennant since 1993, and they'll now gun for their first World Series title since 1980. Hamels carries the same weight on his shoulders that previously rode with Steve Carlton and Curt Schilling.
"To get an award like this is just something surreal," he said "It takes a whole team to get here. I was able to go out there and play the way I know I'm able to do, but it's because of my teammates. We had some big plays."
As Hamels answered questions from reporters in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, he wore one of the standard-issue champions caps, but he wore it backwards -- flashing the image of the World Series trophy on the back of the hat, rather than the league champion and Phillies logos on the front.
It may have been an accident, but it certainly seemed telling. Hamels will surely get the ball in Game 1 of the World Series, and that's the real goal for this club. If the Phillies are to bring home the big title, Hamels will be a huge part of it.
"Cole's been great all year," said outfielder Jayson Werth. "He's our guy. He's our go-to guy. He stepped up big tonight."
Now he just needs to do it two more times.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.