Phillies lose, but plan ahead for NLDS

Phillies lose, but plan ahead for NLDS

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have looked flat since they clinched the National League East on Wednesday.

But they got at least a few things accomplished during Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park:

• They clinched home-field advantage in the National League Division Series. They will play the Rockies beginning Wednesday with Game 1 at the Bank. The Phils still could have home-field advantage in the NL Championship Series, but only if the Cardinals beat the Dodgers in the NLDS.

• They put left-hander Cole Hamels in position to potentially pitch Game 1 of the NLDS on Wednesday, when they pulled him after 47 pitches in three innings. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said while Hamels has a chance to start Game 1, it has not been decided.

• They got another look at right-hander Brett Myers, who is returning from a strained back muscle. He threw a scoreless sixth. "I thought he threw OK," Manuel said.

• They got a look at left-hander Antonio Bastardo, who pitched for the first time since June 25. He threw a scoreless seventh. He is a late addition to a mix of pitchers that could make the postseason roster. "He threw hard," Manuel said.

• Right-hander Brad Lidge, who switched his intro music from Drowning Pool's "Soldiers" to Linkin Park's "No More Sorrow," threw a perfect ninth inning in what could be a precursor to him closing in the postseason.

"That's big. That's very important for us," Manuel said about home-field advantage in the NLDS.

But who will start Game 1?

Hamels allowed three hits, three runs and two walks in three innings. He finished the season 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA, and is 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in his past three starts. But Hamels proved himself to be a big-game pitcher last postseason, when he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts to earn World Series and NLCS MVP honors.

Left-hander Cliff Lee pitched Thursday, so he would be well rested and could start Game 1. He is 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA with the Phillies, but has gone 2-4 with a 6.13 ERA in his past seven starts.


"I think it really takes the focus that we're going to have to put out the next couple days on what we have to do to get to the World Series and win it. We really do have to go out there and be the starting staff that we expected ourselves to be, and to show everybody what we're all about."
-- Cole Hamels

"Look at my ERA," Hamels said. "I finished the year with a losing record. I'm not too excited about that. There's a lot of things I wasn't able to, but I learned a lot. I think I learned a lot more this year than I have in the last three years of being in the big leagues. That's something you have to take, but you have to use it. If you don't use it, it's just going to keep going down, down. That's not what I try to do.

"If you want to be a top guy, you have to learn from your mistakes and fix them and capitalize on other people's mistakes. Now I have to put it together, but this is the time where everything really matters and really counts."

Hamels said he threw fewer pitches than he throws in a typical bullpen session, so he could be fresh enough to pitch Wednesday, despite the fact he would be pitching on short rest.

He said starting Game 1 or 2 doesn't matter to him. But Hamels, who said he doesn't feel that far removed from how he was pitching last year at this time, also saw firsthand how important winning that first game can be. He won the first game in the NLDS, NLCS and World Series last year.

"If they asked me, yes," Hamels said. "But I know we have Cliff and even Joe [Blanton] and [J.A.] Happ and even Pedro [Martinez]. We have the type of guys who could start a Game 1 and start the series the right way. And we have guys that can answer that in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. It's something I was able to do last year. I did it well. It was fun.

"But you really do have to look at the situation of who's the best pitcher, the hottest pitcher going into that situation. I definitely knew I was there last year. You couldn't take that away from me. But this year it's been a struggle, and I've really had to fight on being able to hold my own and have my good games."

Phillies starters are 3-5 with a 6.52 ERA in the past 11 games, so it seems nobody is truly hot.

"I think it really takes the focus that we're going to have to put out the next couple days on what we have to do to get to the World Series and win it," Hamels said. "We really do have to go out there and be the starting staff that we expected ourselves to be, and to show everybody what we're all about."

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