ST. LOUIS During the 2004 postseason, Curt Schilling, then with the Boston Red Sox, recalled a conversation that hed had with Terry Mulholland when the two were Phillies teammates a decade earlier.
According to Schilling, Mulholland said that the awesome thing about being a starting pitcher is you have the ability to make 55,000 people shut up when youre on the road.
Cole Hamels gets the opportunity to be a silencer Tuesday night when he starts Game 3 of the National League Division Series against lefty Jaime Garcia and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
As manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee contemplated their postseason rotation in the final weeks of the season, they didnt have to think twice about who they wanted on the mound for the first road game.
Hamels has thrived away from home in the postseason. He is 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in five starts. He has held opposing hitters to a .216 batting average and a .258 on-base percentage in those starts. He has 31 strikeouts and seven walks over 34 13 innings in those starts.
At home in the postseason, Hamels is 2-3 with a 4.14 ERA in seven starts.
What is it about the road that agrees with Hamels?
I dont know, he said before the Phillies workout at Busch Stadium on Monday afternoon. I think every stadium I pitch in is on the road because my hometown is San Diego.
Hamels didnt say it as colorfully as Mulholland and Schilling, but he likes being able to dictate some of the emotion in the stands. He likes sitting in the dugout and collecting his thoughts in the top of the first inning before taking the mound.
You get in the mindset of knowing your hitters are up first, Hamels said. They can set a tempo. I get a few extra minutes to really calm down and focus before I have to go out there. And when you have fans that are not really on your side, you kind of just want to bear down a little bit more and just kind of be able to take a game from them.
In other words, shut them up.
Hamels must be able to do this in Game 3. The best-of-five series is tied at a game apiece. Going down two-games-to-one will put a lot of pressure on the Phils and put this World Series-or-bust season in peril.
As far as pressure, St. Louis isnt feeling any. The underdog Cards did what they set out to do: They brought the series home tied after rallying from four runs down to beat Cliff Lee in Game 2 Sunday night.
The most important thing is it created a series, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of the win. We go down 0-2 its a big hole.
Hamels success on the road includes a couple memorable performances. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball at Dodger Stadium in Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS to send the Phillies to the World Series. The Phils won that game 5-1. Hamels last pitch was a 94 mph dart that struck out dangerous Jeff Kent with two men on base. It was the last at-bat of Kents career.
A year ago, Hamels went into Cincinnati and pitched a five-hit, nine-strikeout shutout to give the Phils a sweep of the Reds, the NLs best hitting club last year, in division series. His last pitch in that game was a 94 mph bullet past Scott Rolen.
Hamels has had some success in Busch Stadium. In July 2010, he turned in one of the most important regular-season performances in recent franchise history when he pitched eight innings of scoreless ball in a game that the Phils rallied to win, 2-0, in 11 innings. The win came after the Phils had lost six of seven to fall to third place in the NL East. Phillies management was unsure whether it wanted to be a buyer or seller at the trade deadline that month. Hamels gem ignited an eight-game winning streak which led to the acquisition of Roy Oswalt. The Phils finished that season 49-19 on their way to winning the NL East. The run started with Hamels brilliant outing in St. Louis.
Hamels is 2-3 with a 3.27 ERA in nine lifetime starts against the Cards. He went 14-9 for the Phils this regular season and finished with a 2.79 ERA, which ranked sixth in the league. Teammates Roy Halladay (2.35) and Lee (2.40) ranked second and third, respectively.
Theres nobody better, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of the Phillies starting staff. Hamels is a legitimate fit for that rotation. Hes a handful. Hes got a lot of ways to get people out and hes very competitive.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org.