Cole Hamels carried the Phillies throughout the 2008 postseason and he did it again in Game 1 of our Spring Classic, the virtual matchup between the Phillies' World Series championship teams of 2008 and 1980.
Hamels, the real-life MVP in the 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series, led the '08 team to a 4-2 victory with a huge performance on the mound and at the plate at Citizens Bank Park.
On the mound, Hamels outdueled 1980 NL Cy Young winner Steve Carlton in a battle of the two greatest left-handers in franchise history. Hamels pitched eight innings of four-hit ball while Carlton countered with seven innings of five-hit ball on a day when he battled command issues.
At the plate, Hamels doubled twice. Both of the doubles came against Carlton and the first one preceded the game's biggest hit.
The series is being played via Strat-O-Matic computer simulation, based on actual player statistics from the 1980 and 2008 seasons.
During the 2008 season, Hamels hit .224 (17 for 76) with just two doubles.
But, in the batter's box, the numbers came up right for him in this game.
He led off the bottom of the third inning with a double against Carlton. Two batters later, Chase Utley connected for a two-out, two-run homer against Carlton to give the '08 team a 3-2 lead that it would never relinquish.
It was interesting that Carlton struggled to put Hamels and Utley away in the computer simulation. Both are left-handed hitters and Carlton was death on lefties during the 1980 season. They hit a minuscule .183 with just four doubles and one homer against him during the regular season. Carlton allowed just 15 homers in 304 innings over the length of the regular season.
Something tells us Carlton might pitch with a little chip on his shoulder later in this series. That slider might have a little more bite.
While Hamels was economical with his pitches in Game 1 — he walked just one and struck out six on 104 pitches in his eight innings of work — Carlton was not. The Hall of Famer threw 132 pitches (pitch counts were not a thing in 1980) and struck out eight, but he walked five over his seven-inning stay.
One of Carlton's walks proved very costly. The '80 team had taken a 1-0 lead on a solo homer by Mike Schmidt in the top of the first inning. The '08 team tied the game in the bottom of the second. Pat Burrell walked, moved up on a groundout and a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Feliz.
Utley teamed with Hamels to give the '08 club the lead in the third. In the fifth, the '08 club padded its lead as Hamels led off with a double and scored on a base hit by Jimmy Rollins.
The '08 team had just five hits, but they were timely.
Schmidt, the real-life NL MVP in 1980, had two of his team's four hits and both were for extra bases.
The game was played briskly in two hours, 27 minutes. That was a testament to the starting pitching. In the real-life postseason of 2008, Hamels, then 24, made five starts and allowed just seven earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. Though 35 in 1980, Carlton won a league-high 24 games and posted a 2.34 ERA over 38 starts.
Brad Lidge got the final three outs, no big surprise as he went 48 for 48 in save chances during that storybook 2008 season.
The loss put the '80 team in an uncomfortable spot heading into Game 2. Manager Dallas Green would be sending a rookie, Bob Walk, to the mound for that game while his counterpart, Charlie Manuel, was set to go with Brett Myers.
Will the '80 team's bats come alive?
Or will the '08 team's pitching dominance continue?
Come back for Game 2 on Thursday. We're just getting started.