Until March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years. This is 50 of 50.
And this is No. 39.
THE DATE: Oct. 10, 2010
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds, Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
THE STAKES: Game 3, National League Division Series
THE GREAT: Phillies fans were still on a high after Roy Halladay’s no-hitter just a few days earlier, when Cole Hamels took the mound at Great American Ball Park. The Phils were one win away from sweeping the Cincinnati Reds to go to their third-straight NLCS appearance.
I should have been excited. I wasn’t.
This was Cole Hamels’ first playoff start since his forgetful Game 3 against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series. Sure, he looked like his old self again during the 2010 regular season, posting his lowest ERA at the time and winning 12 games.
But this was different. The playoffs are a whole new beast. Would “Hollywood” Hamels return to his 2008 playoff MVP form, or will his ’09 struggles return?
Reds leadoff man Drew Stubbs stepped to the plate and on the second pitch singled to left. Here we go, I thought. But then Brandon Phillips flew out, Joey Votto hit a grounder and former Phillie and enemy Scott Rolen came to the plate. Four-pitch strikeout, runner stranded, inning over.
The Hamels we saw on the mound that night wasn’t the Hamels that let Andy Pettite and the Yankees run him out of Citizens Bank Park. It was “Hollywood” Hamels.
He breezed through the next eight innings, holding the National League’s top offense to just five hits, striking out nine and walking none. Which was a good thing because the Phils didn’t have much juice at the plate, scoring only two runs.
Hamels’ first postseason complete-game shutout was the reassurance Phillies fans needed. Reassurance that Hamels was going to be just fine and reassurance that maybe the Phillies didn’t need Cliff Lee after all.