Hamels' gem lifts Phils to Game 1 win

Hamels' gem lifts Phils to Game 1 win

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels is all you need to know.

When sending e-mails and text messages or updating your Facebook status for anyone unfamiliar with the result of Philadelphia's convincing 3-1 win over Milwaukee to open the National League Division Series -- and the 2008 postseason -- simply type those 10 letters:

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C-O-L-E-H-A-M-E-L-S.

Those characters will adequately tell the story of a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated -- save for Brad Lidge's ninth-inning adventure -- and a Phillies team that won its first playoff game since Oct. 21, 1993, when Curt Schilling captured Game 5 of the World Series.

Pitching at Citizens Bank Park, Hamels dazzled in the all-important Game 1, while Philadelphia scored an opportunistic three runs on sloppy Milwaukee defense, played spectacular in the field and survived a shaky ninth inning by their closer in Wednesday's victory.

In the end, the final score stands. The Phils rode to their fifth straight win over the Brewers as their ace allowed two hits in eight innings, walked one and struck out nine.

"Cole Hamels being Cole Hamels," Ryan Howard said.

"It completely set the tone for the series," Brad Lidge said. "He had his 'A' game going. We really needed to establish that we've got an ace. Everyone talks about [Milwaukee's CC] Sabathia, and he's a great pitcher, but if people watch Cole perform, you'll see something impressive. Hopefully he'll get his due as one of the best pitchers in baseball."

Winning the pivotal first game is huge for Philadelphia, since it had its ace throwing in the best-of-five series, and are facing Sabathia on Thursday in Game 2.

Teams that won Game 1 of the NLDS have gone 23-3 in the Wild Card era. The number for the ALDS is 12-14, bringing the cumulative number to 35-17 in favor of the team that won Game 1.

Determined not to get swept after last season's NLDS exit against the Rockies, and with a mantra of playing with a relaxed focus, the Phillies pounced through a sliver of an opening.

Philadelphia scored all three of its runs in the third, and that inning looked over when Chase Utley lofted a two-out fly ball to center field. Mike Cameron, one of the NL's best center fielders, had placed balls tougher than this in his back pocket for years, but let this one slip from his grasp.

Taking a poor route, the fleet-footed center fielder backtracked and the ball glanced off his glove, allowing two runs to score.

"You could just see the drizzle, how it was cutting across and going all kind of ways," said Cameron, who compared the wind to the experience of Chicago's Wrigley Field. "My first instinct when I read [the ball] was that it wasn't going to travel because of the way the wind was blowing in. Somehow, when I cut across it kind of took off a little bit."

The inning wouldn't have gotten to that point had the third baseman Bill Hall not muffed a sacrifice attempt by Hamels, ruining the chance for a double play, then have his throw to second baseman Rickie Weeks covering first dropped.

Utley made two sterling defensive plays in support of Hamels, who didn't give the Brewers much of a chance through eight innings, retiring 14 straight to open the game. Before the crowd of 45,929 -- the second-largest crowd at Citizens Bank Park -- could think perfect game, Corey Hart broke it up with a single to right with two outs in the fifth.

Milwaukee's only chance against Hamels came in the sixth, with one out and runners on first and second. Continuing to fire changeups, Hamels whiffed Hall and got Ryan Braun to pop to short on the first pitch.

Lifted after 101 pitches, Hamels was replaced by Lidge for the ninth, and the All-Star closer allowed two hits and a run. With runners on second and third, Lidge struck out Hart to end the game. The Phils' closer threw 35 pitches, his most in a outing of one inning or less since May 11, 2006.

"It felt more like 20," Lidge said. "Maybe if the inning had gone wrong, it would've felt like more, but I felt strong the whole time. That's what adrenaline will do. I feel I had my best for the last couple of hitters."

His teammates would jokingly prefer the shorter outings.

"I already told him, that he doesn't have to make it that interesting," Rollins said. "I said, 'What happened to those guys who come out and go 1-2-3? He's like, 'Yeah, you know, it'd be nice to be that 10-pitch pitcher, but I've never been that. I was like, 'It's never too late too start."

With Lidge still perfect for the season, the Phillies move to 1-0 for the postseason, erasing any chance of being swept. After a mad gallop to the 2007 dance, Philadelphia was quickly tapped on the shoulder and sent to the sidelines.

That won't happen again, at least not without a fight.

"[Last year], we didn't worry about being down, 1-0," Rollins said. "We had time. The next thing we knew, it was 0-2 and it was, 'Hold on. We lose one more, it's over.' That was our first time through it and we didn't know what to expect. This year, we understand it's a five-game series, and we won today, but we have to figure out a way to win tomorrow."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.