Sports

Hamels, Cain take spotlight

Charlie Manuel has been through enough postseasons to recognize special pitching matchups this time of year.

Today the Giants and Phillies will see a third such marquee encounter in as many games of their National League Championship Series: Cole Hamels vs. Matt Cain.

The teams traveled on red-eye flights after the Phillies’ 6-1 victory Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park, both landing in the Bay Area around 4 a.m. PDT Monday. That makes for a quick turnaround heading into this afternoon’s Game 3 at AT&T Park. The best-of-seven series is tied at 1-1.

“When we go 1-1 right now and you’re sitting there and you’ve got Cain and Hamels going (today) in a swing game, you won’t see that three days in a row with six pitchers that start the game that good,” said the 66-year-old Manuel, the Phillies’ sixth-year manager. “It’s rare and it’s going to be a heck of a game. The Giants are here because of their pitching and I think we’re here basically because of our pitching. Our offense kind of sputtered this year.”

Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, follows Philadelphia’s two star Roys – Halladay and Oswalt – in the rotation. Cain was pushed back to start the third game after Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez pitched the first two.

Cain will be working on 10 days’ rest since he pitched Game 2 of the division series against Atlanta on Oct. 8, the longest layoff of his career. Hamels, who went 12-11 with a 3.06 ERA this season, pitched a five-hit shutout against Cincinnati on Oct. 10 in his last outing.

“Postseason is where it’s at. It’s the ultimate time to really show what kind of player you are, what kind of pitcher you are,” Hamels said. “These are the types of games and types of moments when you set foot in spring training it’s the ultimate goal for the whole team to go out and enjoy.”

LA RUSSA RETURNS

Tony La Russa ended the postseason suspense, agreeing to a 16th season as St. Louis Cardinals manager.

The team announced a deal Monday that included a mutual option for the 2012 season. Financial terms were not disclosed on the new contract, finalized 15 days after the end of a disappointing season that left the 66-year-old La Russa wondering if he’d worn out his welcome.

Bullpen coach Marty Mason will not be retained, but the rest of coaching staff will be offered contracts this week.

La Russa has a franchise-record 1,318 wins since joining the team as manager in 1996. The Cardinals have won eight division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series title in 2006 under La Russa.

SHORT HOPS

Sandy Alderson will meet with New York Mets executives for the second time Thursday to discuss the team’s general manager vacancy. The former Oakland Athletics president and San Diego Padres CEO met with Mets officials last week. The Mets also received permission from Toronto to interview Dana Brown, special assistant to Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. … Freddy Schuman, the fan known as “Freddy Sez” who banged a spoon against a skillet at Yankee Stadium for more than two decades, died Sunday. He was 85. The Yankees held a moment of silence for Schuman before Game 3 of the ALCS Monday and fans chanted “Fred-dy! Fred-dy!”

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