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Sterling run earns Hamels some hardware

PHILADELPHIA -- He started the clinching game of the World Series two days ago and nearly got the win for it. It didn't happen because the bullpen gave up a run, but that might have been the only thing that went wrong all October for Cole Hamels.

The Philadelphia left-hander, who was 4-0 in the postseason and clearly established himself as one of baseball's ace southpaws, was named the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.

"I didn't expect that," Hamels said after the Phillies' 4-3 clincher over Tampa Bay on Wednesday in Citizens Bank Park. "That was really the furthest thing from my mind but it's great. I'm just trying to help us win and I couldn't do it without my teammates. They got the runs and made the catches. Thank them as much for that as anything I did."

Hamels was 1-0 with a 2.77 earned run average in two World Series starts and 4-0, 1.80 in the postseason. He struck out 30 and walked only 10 in 35 innings.

Hamels was also the MVP in the National League Championship Series. He's just the fifth player in history to pull off that double and the first since Florida's Livan Hernandez in 1997. Pretty heady stuff.

Just five years ago, Hamels was a 19-year-old called up for the day from Class A ball to pitch for the Phillies against the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown.

"We're World Series champions and now I have a memory with each one of these guys for as long as we live," Hamels said. "And these fans that were here have one, too. Having them go nuts is the moment we'll always remember.

"When we're all old and retired and we come back, they'll stand up and give us a standing ovation just like they did to all of the guys of the 1980 team [the city's last World Series champions]."

Hamels has won 29 games in the regular season over the last two years and has high hopes for the Phillies to be perennial contenders. The Phils have won two straight National League East titles.

"We accomplished what we said we would do in spring training and that's the best feeling ever," Hamels said. "It's was great to see the excitement in the ballpark and what we'll see on the streets tonight -- and probably for a few months. We wanted to finish it in Philadelphia because these fans deserved it.

"We want to be the new Braves or Yankees. We want to be in the playoffs for years -- even centuries. Why not?"

***

Completing a suspended game made for a cliffhanger never seen in baseball history because there was a championship on the line. The whole scenario was odd.

Parking and admission were free as long as fans had their ticket stubs and parking receipts from Monday night. No stub, no re-entry. No receipt, fork over another $12. And the place was full. Folks either came back or got their stubs into the hands of people who could use them.

Local media outlets reported fans scouring the perimeter of the ballpark the last two days, looking through parking lots, garbage cans and bushes for Game Five ticket stubs that may have been discarded or blown around in the rain and wind Monday.

There was no national anthem. Instead, a local petty officer sang "God Bless America" prior to the first pitch rather than during the seventh-inning stretch. Just six outs and 27 minutes after play resumed, it was time for "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

The Rays -- the visiting team -- took the field to start play. They were booed roundly, as you would imagine.

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The Phillies finished 7-0 at home in the postseason, the first team to do that in the wild card era. The 1999 Yankees went 6-0. The only other team to win six home games and be perfect in one postseason was the 1987 Minnesota Twins. . . . It's the fifth straight year the World Series has not gone past five games, the first time in history there's been such a drought of Game Six or Game Seven. . . . Monday's suspension was the first in Series history and Tuesday's postponement was the 40th overall (29 due to rain, one due to cold in 1903 and the 10 days off caused by the 1989 San Francisco earthquake). The last rainout was prior to Game Four in 2006 in St. Louis. . . . The Oct. 29 clincher was the second-latest finish in Series history. The only time the championship was decided later was in 2001, when the Yankees and Diamondbacks played Game Seven on Nov. 4 in Arizona because the series started a week later due to the Sept. 11 attacks.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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