CINCINNATI // Cole Hamels pumped his fist, the Philadelphia Phillies celebrated with a few chest bumps and then returned to their clubhouse in high spirits. Ho-hum.
Another dominant pitching performance, and another trip to the National League Championship Series for the Phillies, who are trying to become the first NL team in 66 years to reach the World Series three years in a row.
Hamels struck out nine and pitched a five-hitter as the Phillies beat the Reds 2-0 on Sunday night to finish off a three-game sweep. "This moment here is just another stepping stone to trying to win another World Series," Hamels said. Philadelphia will host San Francisco or Atlanta in the NL Championship Series opener on Saturday. Roy Halladay got the Phillies off to a scintillating start in the play-offs when he stymied the Reds with a no-hitter in Game 1. Hamels finished off the Reds on Sunday with a masterful performance of his own.
"For everybody here the ultimate goal is to get to the World Series," Halladay said. "This is the first step. We're all looking to get to the end." The Reds, making their first post-season appearance in 15 years, committed six errors in the last two games of the series. The NL's top offence managed only 11 hits in three games - the fewest ever for a team in a post-season series. "I mean, they really pitched," Dusty Baker, the Reds manager, said. "They're a very good team. We kept 'em in the ballpark, so to speak, kept the runs down. We just didn't push across enough runs."
Hamels got Joey Votto to ground in a double play after Brandon Phillips's lead-off single in the ninth, then struck out Scott Rolen to end the game. After the final, the celebration was on - well, sort of. It all looked very routine - Charlie Manuel's team has practised this a lot over the past couple of years, including a victory over Tampa Bay in the 2008 World Series. "We don't want to get too carried away," Hamels said. "We're just going to move on and play the best baseball we can."
* Associated Press