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Abrupt reversal dooms Hamels vs. Yanks

Abrupt reversal dooms Hamels vs. Yanks

PHILADELPHIA -- All around the Phillies clubhouse are written notes reminding the players to turn their watches back an hour for the end of daylight saving time.

Through the first 3 1/3 innings of Game 3 on Saturday night, Cole Hamels was quick to the punch, seemingly turning the clock back a full year to last October, when he was an untouchable ace leading the Phillies to a World Series title.

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With full control of his fastball and changeup and an occasional curveball thrown in to keep the Yankees off balance, Hamels looked like the pitcher who won 29 games in 2007-08 and entered this Fall Classic as the reigning World Series MVP.

And then he lost it. In the blink of an eye or the snap of a finger, Hamels transformed back from the 2008 superstar to the 2009 enigma that has perplexed his teammates and his fans this entire season. In rapid succession in the fourth and fifth innings, Hamels lost his early no-hitter and shutout, lost the lead and eventually lost the game, 8-5.

"That's been the story of my whole season," Hamels said. "I can cruise through hitters and then 'boom.' I don't hit small speed bumps; I hit big ones."

The first big speed bump in Hamels' night came with one out in the fourth. After a borderline full-count pitch to Mark Teixeira was ruled a ball -- "It was a strike," Hamels matter-of-factly said later -- Alex Rodriguez lined a two-run homer off a camera sitting atop the right-field fence. The hit, originally ruled a double before being reviewed and reversed, brought the Yankees within a run.

"I thought it was a popup. I really did," Hamels said of the first hit he allowed all night. "He's such a good hitter. The ball just keeps on going."

HARD-HIT HAMELS
Cole Hamels' 2009 postseason has gone drastically different from a year ago, when he was named World Series MVP. The left-hander's career postseason stats:
Year G W-L H HR BB K ERA
2007 1 0-1 3 0 4 7 4.05
2008 5 4-0 23 2 9 30 1.80
2009 4 1-2 25 7 4 15 7.58

Hamels recovered to retire Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano to keep the Phillies in front, but the reprieve was short-lived. The bottom of the Yankees order served as the catalyst for a big New York fifth.

Nick Swisher led off with a double down the left-field line. With one out and Swisher on second, Hamels -- and most people in the ballpark -- expected Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte to lay down a bunt. Instead, Pettitte dropped a soft single to left-center that scored Swisher with the tying run.

"You don't anticipate too many pitchers swinging at 0-0 pitches in bunting counts, especially offspeed pitches," Hamels said. "I learned the hard way."

Derek Jeter followed with his own single to center before Johnny Damon ripped a two-run double into the gap in right-center field. Hamels admitted it was his biggest mistake of the game. After another walk to Teixeira, Hamels' night was done.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

He left to a low chorus of boos, having retired just three of the final 10 hitters he faced.

"He has a good game, and he showed you for three innings that he can pitch," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I look at that, if he can do it for three innings, why can't he keep going?"

Hamels has provoked a lot of questions with his performance all season. But at the end of a night that began with him turning back the clock, Hamels looked forward: to a possible start in a potential Game 7 and to righting the ship for good in 2010. At the same time, he couldn't help but realize how different that felt from the end of 2008.

"I wish that year had kept going," he said.

Now it's up to the Phillies to make sure this one does for Hamels.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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