Sports

Phillies lock up NLCS spot, again

CINCINNATI - Cole Hamels pumped his fist when it was over, and the Philadelphia Phillies celebrated with a few chest bumps and a handshake line before returning to the clubhouse for more champagne.

Ho-hum. Another ace, another dominating performance – and one more trip to the NL championship series.

Hamels struck out nine in a five-hitter, Chase Utley homered and the Phillies beat the Reds, 2-0, on Sunday night to finish off the franchise’s first playoff sweep.

“This moment here is just another stepping stone to trying to win another World Series,” Hamels said.

Philadelphia, attempting to become the first NL team in 66 years to win three straight pennants, will host San Francisco or Atlanta in the NLCS opener Saturday.

Roy Halladay got the Phillies off to a scintillating start with the second no-hitter in postseason history, and Hamels finished off the Reds with a masterful performance of his own.

With Roy Oswalt also rested and ready to go for the next round, look out.

“For everybody here the ultimate goal is to get to the World Series,” Halladay said. “This is the first step. We’re all looking to get to the end.”

The Reds, making their first postseason appearance in 15 years, committed six errors in the last two games of the series after finishing second in the NL with a club-record .988 fielding percentage during the regular season.

The NL’s top offense managed only 11 hits in three games – the fewest for a team in a postseason series, according to STATS LLC. The previous low was 13 by Texas against the New York Yankees in 1998.

“I mean, they really pitched,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “They’re a very good team. We kept ’em in the ballpark, so to speak, kept the runs down. We just didn’t push across enough runs.”

Hamels got Joey Votto to ground into a double play after Brandon Phillips’ leadoff single in the ninth, then struck out Scott Rolen to end the game. The lanky left-hander threw 119 pitches in his first postseason complete game, 82 for strikes.

After Rolen struck out for the eighth time in the series, the celebration was on. Well, sort of.

It all looked very routine – Charlie Manuel’s team has practiced this a lot over the past couple of years, including a victory over Tampa Bay in the 2008 World Series.

“We don’t want to get too carried away,” Hamels said. “We’re just going to move on and play the best baseball we can.”

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