Hamels gets first crack at Dodgers

Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, who beat the Dodgers twice in last year’s National League Championship Series, will start Game 1 of this year’s NLCS at Dodger Stadium tonight, Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said Wednesday.

The rest of Philadelphia’s starting rotation is likely to be announced today, he said. Hamels, 25, will square off against Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, 21, in the opener.

Hamels’ performance a year ago -- he posted a 1.93 earned-run average against the Dodgers in the 2008 series -- earned him the most valuable player award for the NLCS, which the Phillies won in five games on their way to the World Series championship.

The San Diego native had a more lackluster regular season this year, going 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA and at times suffering from elbow problems, a sore shoulder and being hit by a line drive on his pitching arm.


“This seemed like a year where strange things happened to him,” Manuel said. Regardless, “I’m not concerned about how good he can pitch because I know he’s very capable,” he said.

In the Phillies’ division series with the Colorado Rockies last week, Hamels lost Game 2, giving up four runs in five innings, then stayed behind for the birth of his first child while the team traveled to Denver.

This will be a different Dodgers team than he faced last year not only in personnel but in character, Hamels said before the Phillies worked out Wednesday afternoon under cloudy skies at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers -- who swept the St. Louis Cardinals in their division series this year -- not only have more experience from their postseason play last season, “They definitely are the type of team that has a chip on their shoulder, just because of the fact that we did defeat them,” he said.

“Because we’re the ones that took it away from them, they definitely want to prove something,” Hamels said.

Phillies slugger Ryan Howard agreed. The Dodgers “haven’t forgotten about what happened last year,” he said. “They’re a lot tougher team than they were last year just because they had that experience. And it showed the way they went through St. Louis in the first round.”

‘They’re very good’

Manuel said he was concerned about the Dodgers’ strong bullpen, including right-handed closer Jonathan Broxton and left-handers George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo.

“That’s a big challenge,” Manuel said. “They’re very good, and then they got Broxton at the end. . . . We’re going to have to get some big hits off some of that big pitching.”

Even so, “I have more determination probably than I had last year” to win the NLCS, he said.