One problem is that Cole Hamels hasn't been the same dominating pitcher that he was last season. In his two NLCS starts last season, Hamels was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and averaged seven innings in each start. This year, his start in game one was nowhere near being able to set him up for a repeat of those performances. While Hamels got the win in game one, he lasted just 5 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs in an 8-6 Phillies win.
So tonight, Hamels figures that he needs to be much smarter to improve on his performance. "I had myself set up in a lot of situations with two strikes and a lot of situations where I should have finished them off, but I wasn't able to do that," admitted Hamels. "And that's where I really do need to be smarter when it comes to those situations with two strikes. I need to make them chase or put them in play before that situation ever happens."
Manager Charlie Manuel believes that Hamels is very close to being the pitcher that he was last season and if he can just focus on getting hitters out, he'll be fine. "He'll be sailing along, for instance, three, four, five innings he'll be pitching real good. All of a sudden get two outs, nobody on, pitcher gets a hit or we boot a ball or he walks somebody, and all of a sudden he gives up four or five runs. It's just a little difference here or there, and he could be out of it and take you right into the seventh or eighth inning of the game. That's the difference I've seen in his year," explained Manuel.
With a rested - and improving - bullpen, Hamels doesn't need to be perfect. He needs to simply pitch as deep into the game as he can and keep the Dodgers off the board as best he can.
While Hamels has struggled at times this season, he has kept the same approach that worked for him last year and he's not about to change now.
"I've gone through different and new struggles, different successes. So truly, I'm just focused on going out there and just trying to do the best I possibly can."
Hamels at least has the comfort of knowing that he's got a strong offense to support him and a club that is going to battle no matter what the situation. He admits that he's relied on the strength of his teammates to get through the rough spots of the 2009 season and help the Phillies to where they are right now. Even though the situation is very similar to last season, Hamels doesn't want to rely on feeding off of last year to give him success in this year's game five.
"You know, it can [help to look back at last year]. But at the same point, last year there was a little bit of different circumstances with the way I was pitching. You know, it was a little bit easier. This year has been a lot tougher," said Hamels. "I really have to minimize the mistakes. And if I'm able to do that, because I have been in the same sort of situation, it'll just come back; that familiarity will just come back a little bit easier. I think that's what helps is the guys understand that."