Philadelphia Phillies sweep away Cincinnati Reds to advance

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - The Philadelphia Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Division Series with a 2-0 win on Sunday that put them into the National League Championship Series.

Left-hander Cole Hamels threw a five-hit, complete game shutout, striking out nine batters without a walk in a dominant performance for Philadelphia.

A throwing error by Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera after singles by Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard gave Philadelphia a run in the first inning, and Chase Utley homered to center off Johnny Cueto with two out in the fifth to make it 2-0.

The two-time reigning National League champion Phillies will meet the winner of the other NL Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants, who lead that best-of-five playoff 2-1.

Philadelphia won the World Series two years ago against the Tampa Bay Rays in five games, and lost last year in six games to the New York Yankees, but Hamels said the current team could be the best yet.

The left-hander, who was World Series MVP in 2008, said the 2010 Phillies have even better pitching as evidenced by the no-hitter thrown in the NLDS opener by Roy Halladay, who joined the team in a trade with Toronto before the season.

"Having three starters, that definitely helps because the post-season is all about pitching," said Hamels in including Game Two starter Roy Oswalt, a midseason trade acquisition.

The Philadelphia triumvirate, nicknamed "H2O," combined to limit Cincinnati's league-leading offensive lineup to just four runs and 11 hits in three games.

"When you're able to pitch good games you're going to get wins," said Hamels.

The Reds were making their first post-season appearance in 15 years, and Hamels said being there before also helps.

"We have the experience on our side," he noted. "When you've been able to be in these moments you know how to handle these moments and put the other team away, put the crowd away and play the game."

Utley's solo shot in the fifth was his 10th post-season home run in 35 games, moving him past Jeff Kent for most playoff home runs by a second baseman.

Shane Victorino made a sterling defensive play with a running catch in deep left-center off Brandon Phillips in the first inning with a man on first that would likely have given Cincinnati a run.

Hamels said the Phillies, whose 97-65 mark was the best record in Major League Baseball, were playing well in all facets.

"We play good baseball. We're hitting the ball, we're able to score. We're stealing bases and we're able to pitch. We had tremendous defense.

"I think that's what it takes to be a good team and really pull it through. It takes everything."

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury)