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Philadelphia Phillies sweep Cincinnati Reds to advance to NLCS

CINCINNATI — Cole Hamels completed what Roy Halladay started, putting the Phillies back in the NL Championship Series.

Another ace, another dominating performance.

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

The Phillies , trying to become the first NL team in 66 years to win three straight pennants, will host the Giants or Braves in the NLCS opener on Saturday.

Halladay opened this matchup with the second no-hitter in postseason history. With Hamels and Roy Oswalt also rested and ready to go for the next round, look out.

"Having three starters definitely helps," Hamels said. "The playoffs are all about pitching."

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 season.

The NL's top offense also stalled in three playoff games, managing 11 hits.

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 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, Hamels pumped his fist and the Phillies celebrated with a few chest bumps and a handshake line before returning to the locker room for champagne.

It all looked routine. Charlie Manuel's team has practiced a lot the past couple of years.

"I think when you have that playoff experience and you've been able to go to the World Series the past two years in a row, you know what it takes to get there," Hamels said. "We don't want to get too carried away. … We're just going to move on and play the best baseball we can."

Utley, greeted with loud boos and chants of "Cheater! Cheater!" before each at-bat, connected off Johnny Cueto in the fifth, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was his 10th career postseason homer, moving him past teammate Jayson Werth and into first on the club's career list.

Utley started Philadelphia's winning rally in Game 2 when he was hit by a pitch from reliever Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning. The All-Star second baseman acknowledged after the game he wasn't sure if the ball hit him, and a record crowd of 44,599 at Great American Ball Park made it clear what it thought of the play.

Umpires reviewed Utley's drive to right-center to see if a fan interfered with the ball, but the replays were conclusive and the call was quickly upheld.

The Reds never regained their footing after Halladay's masterpiece. The NL Central winners led 4-0 in Game 2 but fell apart, committing four errors in a 7-4 loss that put them on the brink of elimination.

Hamels took it from there.

The 2008 World Series MVP, quite the luxury to have as a No. 3 starter in the postseason, improved to 7-0 against Cincinnati in eight career starts.

"I have that sort of positive energy every time I come here," said Hamels, also 6-3 in 11 postseason outings.

Hamels allowed two runners to reach second and none to get to third. He got help from his defense in the first when centerfielder Shane Victorino sprinted into the gap in left-center to grab Phillips' liner with speedy Drew Stubbs on first.

Cincinnati's fielders were not so helpful to Cueto.

Shortstop Orlando Cabrera made an errant throw in the first that allowed Placido Polanco to score an unearned run, quieting the towel-waving crowd. Rolen mishandled Carlos Ruiz's grounder to third in the sixth, but Homer Bailey got Hamels to fly out.

Phillies 2

Reds 0

Philadelphia Phillies sweep Cincinnati Reds to advance to NLCS 10/10/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 11, 2010 12:17am]
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