Hamels' dominating performance helps him win series MVP

LOS ANGELES -- Cole Hamels dominated the Dodgers in winning the opener and clincher of the NL championship series.

He was selected series MVP for his effort. Not surprisingly, he wants more.

The 24-year-old left-hander improved to 3-0 in the postseason, allowing a run and five hits over seven innings with five strikeouts in the Philadelphia Phillies' 5-1 victory over Los Angeles in the clinching Game 5 of the best-of-seven series Wednesday night.

"To get an award like this is something surreal. This definitely has to go to the whole team right here. But it's only a stepping stone," Hamels said. "Being in that parade down Broad Street is what we all want. Getting a World Series ring and trophy is what really matters. Getting there is great, but winning it all is the best."

In the series opener, Hamels beat Derek Lowe 3-2 after giving up two runs and six hits over seven innings. The Phillies pulled ahead in that game in the sixth with a two-run homer by Chase Utley and a solo shot by Ryan Howard. This time, he was staked to a 5-0 lead after five innings.

Hamels didn't get much run support during the regular season. His teammates scored three runs or less in eight of his losses and were shut out in three of them.

"Cole is a guy that sat around and would give up two runs a game and get no-decisions and losses. I'm sure he got frustrated, but he never really got upset," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who led off Game 5 with a home run off Chad Billingsley. "Every time I spoke with him, he just said, 'Well, next time.' And then it came to a point where he's say 'Forget next time. I want to do it now.'

"Now it's come all the way around for him," Rollins added. "Runs that we weren't getting for him during the season have been sufficient enough in the postseason."

Hamels finished the NLCS with a 1.93 ERA. He struck out 13 in 14 innings by locating his fastball and keeping the hitters off balance with his changeup.

The 24-year-old left-hander is the fourth Phillies player to win the award, joining second baseman Manny Trillo (1980), left fielder Gary Matthews (1983) and right-hander Curt Schilling (1993).

"It took a lot of hard work and a lot of luck," Hamels said. "You learn a lot from failure. You have to take from it, realize it's not the end of the world and try to better yourself. This year I was coming back from an injury, so I was a little bit nervous. But I've been healthy all year, and I had that confidence that I could go out there and just throw and not have a bump here or there.

"It helped me to have Jamie Moyer here to help me through the bumps in the road," Hamels added. "I mean, any guy who has 20 years in the big leagues has done something right. And he was able to help me through hard times here and there."

On Oct. 1, Hamels held Milwaukee to just two hits over eight innings and struck out nine in the division series opener at Philadelphia to beat Milwaukee 3-1. The San Diego native has given up more than two earned runs only once in his last 13 starts.

Hamels, the 17th overall pick in the 2002 draft, pitched in his first All-Star game last season. He was 14-10 in 33 starts this season with a 3.09 ERA and had 196 strikeouts in 227 1/3 innings -- third among lefties behind CC Sabathia and Johan Santana. He he's given the Phillies a durable ace all year, something they lacked in the past.

"Cole is a big-game guy and he likes the stage," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said. "He's got the makeup, the disposition, the intensity and the composure. And that's what it's all about. Even if you have the ability, it's also about controlling your emotions. And I think this year he's learned to control his emotion better than he had previously."

Hamels returns to the mound next Wednesday for Game 1 of the World Series, against the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox. And his teammates are confident his perfect postseason will continue.

"Until he shows me otherwise, I have no reason not to believe," Rollins said.