Well-deserved congratulations to Philadelphia, Cole Hamels, and Phillies fans everywhere on a convincing Championship Series victory vs. LA. Here are some of the numbers that tell the 2008 NLCS story.
2 The number of strikeouts (2) for Ryan Howard. Perhaps the most surprising number of the series - no homers for Howard, but only two Ks - and he was 6 for 20 with two RBI and three runs. This is the same Howard who struck out 199 times in the regular season - for the second year in a row.
3 The number of postseason leadoff homers (3) for Jimmy Rollins. He now has a leadoff homer in three consecutive postseason series dating to 2007. Rollins has led off both of the Phillies series' clinching wins in 2008 with a home run - and his blast leading off against Chad Billingsley in Game 5 vs. LA, with Cole Hamels on the mound, set the tone for the rest of the game.
5 Brad Lidge is still perfect. He has (5) saves in the postseason, including three against LA, after converting all 41 opportunities during the regular season.
14 The number of innings (14) for Cole Hamels. In two starts he gave up 11 hits and three earned runs - while striking out 13. The Series MVP won Game 1 and the deciding Game 5, posting an impressive 1.93 earned run average. Take away Manny Ramirez and the rest of the Dodgers' lineup produced just eight hits and one run against Hamels.
34 Philadelphia's other four starting pitchers recorded just (34) outs while giving up 14 earned runs in 11-plus innings of work. The good news is that by clinching in five games the Phillies rotation will be rested, set, and ready to go next week. Anyone think Moyer is in line for another start?
333 The batting average (.333) for Pat Burrell. It is impossible to overstate the significance of his sixth inning home run in Game 1. Chase Utley tied it, Burrell gave them the lead. Burrell also had the two-homer game in the clincher vs. Milwaukee. Anyone disagree that this guy is a temperamental, streaky hitter? He struck out seven times vs. LA, but this is a guy who the eventual AL champion better not look past.
500 The slugging percentage (.500) for Shane Victorino. He hit only .222 but who cares, he had a triple, a homer, and six RBI - but perhaps even more important is the way he plays the game. I love his emotion, his intensity, and his reaction to Hiroki Kuroda throwing at his head. He later said, "Someone was bound to get hit - the situation called for it. Just don't throw at my head." The next night he came back and hit an eighth inning homer that tied the game and set the stage for Matt Stairs.
984 The winning percentage (.984) for Joe Torre managed teams in the postseason when holding a two-run lead in the eighth inning or later - prior to Game 4, Shane Victorino, and Matt Stairs. Torre was 62-1 before the Phillies handed him loss number two in that situation - and it was a huge comeback for Philly, scoring four in the eighth and averting a series tied two games apiece.
1000 The batting average (1.000) for Matt Stairs. Seriously, this guy is still playing? Apparently, because in his only at bat of the series he hit a two-run blast that won Game 4. Stairs later said, "My whole career, even back in the early days, my approach was try to hit the ball out of the ballpark - and it's something I've enjoyed doing. I try to hit home runs and that's it. I'm not going to hit a single and steal second base."
Major League Baseball: An Interactive Guide to the World of Sports, with a foreword by The Baseball Collector Zack Hample, is available now.