Let's face it, Cole Hamels is a big game pitcher, especially when it's a really big game. The young left-hander's march through the playoffs and World Series last year earned him an MVP trophy, a big new contract and the adoration of fans throughout the Delaware Valley.
Most of his performances since then have earned him a barrage of questions, only some of which he has chosen to directly address.
In his last two outings he has been superb, particularly last night in one of those really big games. Why was it so big? Let us count the ways:
1. He was facing a potential playoff opponent.
2. He needed to show the last outing against a lesser opponent was not a fluke.
3. He was opposed by a young stud who'd thrown a no-hitter this season.
4. He had to convince his teammates he was back on track.
5. He had to convince the Giants he and the Phillies knew a thing or two about pitching, too.
6. He had to prove he could win without much run support.
7. He had to establish his command, which had been shaky most of the season.
8. He had to throw a third pitch every now and then.
He did all of those things, though he still relied mainly on the fastball and change. The result was a two-hit shutout of the Giants. Coming two days in advance of facing arguably the best pitcher in the NL, Tim Lincecum, Hamel's stellar performance re-established him as a top of the rotation pitcher, which, frankly, he hadn't been since, well, last October. You can be sure the Giants noticed.