Cole Hamels faces Clayton Kershaw tonight in game one of the NLCS in Los Angeles.
Kershaw is a 21-year-old lefty and was a first round pick of the Dodgers in 2006. He went 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.23 ratio in 171 innings for the Dodgers this season. In 171 innings he allowed 119 hits. That one seems important, so I’ll say it again — in 171 innings he allowed 119 hits. If that seems impossible, I understand, but I did double-check like four times and encourage you to do the same. His 6.26 hits allowed per nine innings was the best mark for any pitcher in either league. Tim Lincecum was second in either league and he allowed 6.71 hits per nine innings. In this context the difference between 6.26 and 6.71 is big.
Kershaw also does not allow home runs. He gave up just seven on the season, six of which were hit by righties. What he does do is walk right-handed batters. 119 hits in 171 innings is sick, but he walked way too many righties. Eighty walks to righties in 547 plate appearances for the year. Eleven to lefties in 154 plate appearances. He walked 4.79 batters per nine innings for season overall, which is too many. No other pitcher on either the Phils or Dodgers who threw at least 70 innings this season walked that many hitters per nine innings.
He faced the Phils twice this year and the Phils fared pretty well. Kershaw was 0-2 against the Phils with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.45 ratio. On May 12 in Philly he allowed four runs on four hits and four walks over five innings as the Phils won 5-3. Ibanez had a big two-run double off of him in the fourth inning of that game. He faced Hamels on June 4 and pitched better, but the Phils won 3-0 anyway as Hamels threw a complete game shutout. Kershaw went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks. Feliz, Ibanez and Utley all had doubles against Kershaw.
He pitched the second game of the NLDS with the Cards and was very good, allowing two runs over 6 2/3 innings. He walked just one in the game. He allowed a home run to Matt Holliday in the game, but I wouldn’t get used to that. Between June 4 to August 19 Kershaw had a stretch of 15 starts where he threw 83 2/3 innings without allowing a home run.
He made two appearances in the NLCS last year, both in relief. In game two he threw a 1-2-3 seventh with the Phils up 8-5, setting down Feliz, Rollins and Victorino. In game six he started the sixth with a 3-2 lead and didn’t fare as well. Howard led off with a walk, Burrell singled to left and Victorino bunted the runners along before Kershaw was replaced.
Utley is the only Phillie with a home run off of Kershaw for his career. 3-for-10 with a double, a homer and two walks. Werth 3-for-10 with a walk. Rollins 3-for-11 with a double. Feliz 2-for-4 with a double and two walks. Victorino 1-for-8. Howard 1-for-8 but with three walks. Ibanez 2-for-5 with two doubles and three strikeouts.
Given that the home run may not be coming against Kershaw it might seem like trying to run on him may be the way to go. Or maybe not — six stolen bases against for the season and seven caught stealings.
Hamels went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.29 ratio over 32 starts in 2009. He went into the All-Star break with an ugly 4.87 ERA, but threw to a 3.76 ERA and a 1.19 ratio in 15 starts after the break. He was also much better at home this year than away from Citizens Bank Park. 3.76 ERA and a 1.12 ratio at home and a 4.99 ERA and a 1.48 ratio away. He was tough on lefties this year (242/295/416). Righties hit .282 against him, but he didn’t walk many of them, holding their line for the year against him to 282/320/447.
He made two starts against the Dodgers this year in which he allowed one earned run in 16 innings with an 0.81 ratio. On May 14 he and Billingsley both pitched great. After the Dodgers got an unearned run early, Loney homered off of Hamels in the seventh to take a 2-1 lead and the Dodgers went on to win 5-3 in ten innings with the help of a pair of runs off of Durbin in the tenth. On June 4 Hamels started against Kershaw and threw a complete game shutout, allowing five hits without walking a batter, and the Phils won 3-0.
Hamels most recent start was game two of the NLDS and he didn’t pitch especially well, allowing four runs on seven hits over five innings as the Rockies topped the Phils 5-4. For Hamels it was the first time in seven post-season starts that he did not make a quality start. In his seven playoff starts he’s 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA and an 0.99 ratio. In game two of the NLDS Hamels was also pitching on the day his wife went into labor, although the story goes that he was not aware of that until he was out of the game.
He made two starts against LA in the NLCS last year and was named series MVP, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 1.14 ratio. In game two he allowed two runs over seven innings and the Phillies won 3-2. Ramirez had an RBI-double against him in the first in that game. He was great in game five, allowing a run over seven innings as the Phils won 5-1. Ramirez got him in that game, too, hitting a solo homer in the sixth for the lone Dodgers run.
Hamels has fared pretty well against Ramirez in the regular season over his career. Manny is 2-for-8 against him with a walk. Ronnie Belliard is the guy on the Dodgers who has seen Hamels the most. Belliard is 7-for-26 (.269) against him, but with two home runs. Kemp is 4-for-12 with a double but no walks. Martin 3-for-11 with a home run. Furcal 1-for-7. Ethier 1-for-10.
This from Todd Zolecki suggests that Blanton and Happ are available to pitch in relief tonight and Pedro Martinez will start game two.