(Sports Network) - Cole Hamels tries to pitch the Philadelphia Phillies into the World Series for the second straight year this evening, when the team attempts to close out the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.
Hamels, though, has not been the same pitcher he was last season, when he won MVP honors in both the NLCS and World Series. In two postseason starts this year, he has gone 1-1 while pitching to a 6.97 earned run average.
His poor performance in these playoffs follows up a ho-hum regular season for the left-hander, who went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA.
"It's a new year -- I've gone through different and new struggles, different successes," Hamels said on Tuesday. "I think when you start putting those thoughts in your head, you put more added pressure, because last year in those same situations, I wasn't thinking about that."
Hamels, though, got the win in Game 1 of this series last Thursday, as he allowed four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He is now 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA in seven career starts against Los Angeles, including three in the playoffs.
The Phillies took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven set on Monday, as Jimmy Rollins lined a two-out, two-run double off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth inning to cap a dramatic rally that lifted Philadelphia to a 5-4 win.
Broxton (0-1) got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the eighth inning by retiring Jayson Werth on a fly ball to right field. But in the ninth, pinch- hitter Matt Stairs drew a four-pitch walk with one out and Carlos Ruiz was then hit by a pitch on his elbow.
Pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, who batted .167 as that role during the regular season, hit a soft liner to third for the second out. Rollins then lined a 1-1 fastball to the wall in right-center field, plating pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett and Ruiz without a throw to the plate.
"It's one of those situations where I wasn't afraid," said Rollins. "I've faced him a number of times before, and that always helps when you're familiar with the guy, his movement, what his ball is going to do, and he's pretty much thrown me all fastballs. I've fouled off a couple sliders in the past. But the fact that he's a closer, 100 miles per hour, he's going to give you his best. If he's going to lose, he's going to lose with his best. I was able to catch one in the gap perfectly. They were kind of squeezing the gap, but that ball just came out far enough to beat everybody."
The Phillies then mobbed Rollins at the plate in a wild celebration.
"Baseball has changed, you probably didn't have celebrations like that in the past, but today guys show emotion, I guess, a lot differently," said Rollins. "That's a good way to go into an off day, but we understand we still have a job to do, and that's over. The celebration, that part is done. We look forward to the off day and getting back to Wednesday, trying to close it out."
Ryan Howard added a two-run homer on a milestone night for the Phillies' first baseman. He tied the major league record by driving in a run in his eighth straight postseason game. Alex Rodriguez has since tied that mark, which they both share with Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, who did it between the 1928 and 1932 seasons.
Howard is 5-for-13 (.385) with two home runs, eight RBI and a .529 on-base percentage in this series, and has driven in 14 runs this postseason.
"That's the makeup of this team. We don't give up until the last out is made," said Howard. "We just feel we always have a shot. You never know what's going to happen."
So with their season on the line tonight, Dodgers manager Joe Torre has decided to give the ball to right-hander Vicente Padilla, who was looking for work in August after being released by the Texas Rangers.
Padilla went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in eight games (7 starts) after being picked up by the Dodgers, and he has been even better this postseason, surrendering just a run and eight hits in 14 1/3 innings of work.
Padilla, who pitched five-plus seasons with the Phillies, was terrific against his old team in Game 2, as he limited Philadelphia's potent lineup to one run and four hits in seven innings of the Dodgers' 2-1 win.
This is the first NLCS rematch since Houston and St. Louis met in 2004 and '05, and only the third repeat series since Atlanta and Pittsburgh squared off in 1991 and '92.
Philadelphia, which will be shooting for its seventh NL pennant this evening, needed five games to get past the Dodgers a year ago en route to capturing its first World Series title since 1980. This will actually be the fifth time these teams are meeting in the postseason. The Phils beat Los Angeles in 1983 to advance to the World Series, while the Dodgers defeated Philadelphia the first two times they met (1977-78).
Los Angeles won the season series with the Phils, 4-3, as it took two of three at Citizens Bank Park and split four games at Chavez Ravine.
- Via Sports Network