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Hamels takes his game to another level

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If there was ever any doubt before, there is none now. Cole Hamels is not just one of the best young pitchers in baseball, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball, period.

As good as Hamels has been in the regular season, there were some questions about how he would perform in the postseason. Last year, in his NLDS loss to the Colorado Rockies, Hamels gave up three runs and three hits with four walks in 6 2/3 innings.

"Cole is a big-game pitcher," said Ryan Howard. "It takes a lot to come here and pitch in these guys' home park, with their backs against the wall, knowing they've got to come out swinging. Cole is a guy who answered the challenge."

Personally, I was never much of a Hamels guy. Don't get me wrong, I thought he was good, but never thought he was Johan Santana, CC Sabathia good. Regardless of what happens from here on out, though, I am going to have to readjust my thinking on him.

Hamels answered his critics with eight brilliant scoreless innings in his NLDS start against the Milwaukee Brewers, and was magnificent against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS to get his team to their first World Series in 15 years.

"It's a pleasure," said Jamie Moyer. "He's a great kid. He's learned a lot. He's come a long way. He's really matured. He's actually, in my opinion, mature beyond his years. To see him go out tonight and throw the ball the way he did, I think he's well on his way to being a great pitcher."

The young lefty won both of his starts against the Dodgers, surrendering just three runs in 14 innings on his way to NLCS MVP honors. He went seven solid innings in Wednesday's clincher, giving up just a run - a Manny Ramirez solo homer - and five hits, striking out five with three walks.

"To get an award like this is just something surreal," he said "It takes a whole team to get here. I was able to go out there and play the way I know I'm able to do, but it's because of my teammates. We had some big plays."

Hamels still doesn't strike me as the type of guy that is going to ask for the ball on short rest if his team needs him. But if I need a win in a big spot, there are not many pitchers I would rather have on the hill than Hamels...as long as its on full rest.

VICTORINO'S COMING OUT PARTY

If Hamels wasn't the NLCS MVP, then Shane Victorino was.

"It's something that I would have definitely loved to have," Victorino said. "But Cole was well-deserving. It's about winning. And hearing the chants of MVP, I would never think about ever getting that recognition. We all deserve it as a team."

Victorino, a former draft pick of the Dodgers, drove in six runs in the series and seemed to find himself in the middle of every big moment, including Game 3's benches-clearing fracas.

Victorino is nowhere near the best center fielder in baseball. But, if you want to win a World Series, you need guys like Victorino on your team. Whether it's getting a big hit, laying down a bunt, making a big play in the field, stealing a base, whatever, Victorino does everything.

Anyone missing Aaron Rowand now?

CLASSY MOVE BY PAT GILLICK

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick made a point of mentioning his predecessor Ed Wade, who had as big part as any in building this current version of the team.

Wade, who was fired after the 2005 season, never guided the Phils to the postseason, but was responsible for the drafting of Chase Utley, Hamels, Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson and Carlos Ruiz. Not to mention his selection of Victorino in the Rule 5 Draft at the 2004 Winter Meetings.

"I think a lot of the credit for this celebration tonight should go to Ed Wade," Gillick said. "He put together a lot of this team. Three-quarters of our infield, Cole Hamels, Pat Burrell ...

"I kind of filled in around what Ed had in place. A lot of credit should go to Ed Wade and his group because they did a tremendous job getting the nucleus here in Philadelphia. Now, on to the World Series."

Gillick should also thank Wade, now the GM of the Houston Astros, for trading him closer Brad Lidge for a handful of prospects.

WORTH NOTING

In an ominous note for Philadelphia fans, the winner of the past three LCS matchups between the Phillies and Dodgers has gone on to lose the World Series.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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