PHILADELPHIA -- In an authoritative manner, Cliff Lee silenced those who had doubted whether he'd be able to rise to the occasion during his first career playoff appearance and provide the Phillies an auspicious start to their National League Division Series against the Rockies.
Given the dominance that Cole Hamels experienced on his way to being named last year's World Series MVP, some Phillies fans thought that he would have been the one most adept to handle the pressure that surrounded a postseason opener.
Now that Lee set the Phillies on the right path with a complete-game masterpiece in Wednesday night's 5-1 Game 1 victory over the Rockies, Hamels can now feed off the pressure created by the desire to match his fellow left-handed teammate.
"You have to win three games to get to the next round," Hamels said after Wednesday's game. "It's going out there and focusing on the game that I have to play tomorrow and trying to win that."
When Hamels toes the rubber and faces the Rockies in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday at 2:37 p.m. ET on TBS and Postseason.TV, he'll officially close the book on the 10-11 record that he compiled during the regular season and attempt to once again feed off the energy of the hometown fans who shared a glorious October with him last year.
Righties and lefties are each batting over .280 against him this year
Rockies pounded him this season
His sinker must be on
The guy is clutch
"I think the postseason actually does prove that things do start over," Hamels said. "You try to take all the momentum you've gained through the season and all the lessons you've gained and really try to apply it, because this is the time when you're needed most and you know what you're capable of doing."
Despite the fact that Hamels went 10-11 and posted a 4.32 ERA in 32 starts, many Phillies fans believed that he should have been given the opportunity to start Game 1 instead of Lee.
Lee's September struggles and lack of previous postseason experience fueled this mindset. But these fans also have fresh memories of Hamels thriving through the pressure that was present while he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five postseason starts last year.
"I know my teammates know what I'm capable of doing and I know what I'm capable of," Hamels said. "It's just a matter of being able to repeat what I can do best, and that's going out there and trying to set the tone early. I'm the first one out in the first inning, so it's kind of what you have to do. You have to set the tone."
Hamels set the tone while earning the win during Game 1 of each of the three postseason rounds that the Phillies conquered last year. Along the way, the 25-year-old southpaw fed off Philadelphia's energy and went 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in three home starts.
"Yeah, I think I've been fortunate enough to be able to pitch at home," Hamels said. "I think any time you're able to pitch here in Philadelphia, and especially on the right side of Philadelphia fans, it's exciting. You kind of take that energy and you try to channel it and direct it towards the opposing team."
Hamels can only hope that this year's postseason debut proves to be more memorable than the regular-season debut that he endured at Coors Field on April 10. The Rockies celebrated their home opener that afternoon by knocking the Phillies southpaw around for seven runs and 11 hits in just 3 2/3 innings.
After enduring another shaky outing against the Padres seven days later, Hamels managed to go 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA over the course of his next six starts. This would be the longest respectable stretch within a season during which he allowed four earned runs in 13 of his 32 starts.
"Baseball is a hard game," Hamels said. "You have opponents that are really trying to get after you, and I think it's something where the expectations -- if you really start to fall into those sort of expectations -- you can really get yourself in trouble by putting too much pressure on yourself."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.