The Phillies took game one today against the Brewers, 3-1, behind an outstanding pitching performance by Cole Hamels. In tomorrow's game, the Brewers will send their ace, CC Sabathia, to the mound to oppose the Phillies' Brett Myers.
The pitching match-up:
For the Brewers: Sabathia's value to the Brewers since his mid-season acquisition can't be overstated. He has been the most dominant pitcher in the National League, going 11-2 with seven complete games and three shutouts in 17 starts.
Perhaps most importantly for the Brewers, he has pitched 130.2 innings, saving them from using the bullpen. This is good for two reasons: the bullpen arms had a chance to rest, and also the fact that the Brewers bullpen just isn't very good.
Sabathia, however, will be making his fifth start in 17 days. He has not had full rest between starts since the five days before his September 16th start at Chicago. The Brewers have needed every one of these starts to reach this point, but with Sabathia constantly pitching on short rest and still averaging over seven innings per start during this stretch, it may catch up to him sooner, rather than later.
In last year's playoffs, Sabathia really struggled, going 1-2 with a soaring ERA of 8.80. Many of the critics last season blamed Sabathia's high innings total during the regular season. He threw 241.0 innings last season. He has thrown 253.0 this year.
For the Phillies: Opposite Sabathia will be Brett Myers, who has experienced a resurgence in the second half. The Phillies' opening day starter, Myers was so bad early on that he was sent down to the minors for almost a month in June and July to work on his mechanics.
Since his return Myers has looked every bit the ace the Phillies expected him to be. His post all-star numbers are 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 88.2 innings. In his last start against the Brewers, on September 14th, he turned in a dominant complete game performance, allowing only one run on two hits.
This will be Myers' first career postseason start, since he was the Phillies' closer during their NLDS appearance last year. He contributed 1.1 scoreless innings last year, but this game will be much different. He needs to have a great game to give the Phillies a shot against Sabathia.
In today's game, the Brewers and Phillies both struggled to hit, with only four base knocks a piece. Utley's two-RBI double in the third and a ninth inning double by Ryan Braun were the game's only extra-base hits on a day where the wind was blowing hard to right, but acted more to knock down any fly balls, rather than help them.
For the Brewers: Brewers batters today struck out 12 times, nine against starter Cole Hamels, three in the ninth against closer Brad Lidge. They will need to do a better job of putting the ball in play against Myers, another strikeout pitcher.
In his last start against the Brewers, Myers allowed only two hits, one each to Ray Durham and Prince Fielder. Durham also had one of the Brewers hits today, but the middle of the order really struggled.
The Brewers have lost all five games at Citizens Bank Park this year, scoring just 11 runs total in those five contests. In today's game, the first four batters in the order combined for seven strikeouts, including three for Fielder. Hamels' change-up left Bill Hall and Fielder without an answer.
Leadoff man Mike Cameron will have to get on base early to give the Brewers a shot to score some runs. Ray Durham will likely start at second base, and he also needs to get on to give Braun and Fielder RBI opportunities.
Myers has had a problem with giving up the longball this year, allowing a total of 29. However, only 5 of those have come after the all-star break. Regardless, the Brewers are one of the best power-hitting teams in the league and will try to use home runs to get to Myers.
For the Phillies: The Phillies have a tough match-up tomorrow with Sabathia. Not only is he one of the game's best pitchers, but he is also left-handed, as are Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the heart of the Phillies' order.
Against a left-handed starter, it is possible that Charlie Manuel will decide to split up the lefties in the line-up by batting Utley second and either Pat Burrell of Jayson Werth third. If this is the case, even more pressure will fall on those two corner outfielders than there already was.
Regardless of the order, Werth and Burrell, along with Jimmy Rollins, will need to contribute much more tomorrow than they did today to give the Phillies a chance against Sabathia. Those three went just 1-10 today and Werth struck out three times.
If Rollins and Werth can get on base at the top of the line-up, they can use their speed to distract Sabathia and create RBI opportunities for Howard and Burrell. Although Howard has a low batting average against lefties this season, he does have 14 home runs and 49 RBI against them, and can drive the ball out of the park against anyone.
For the Brewers: I have already discussed the heavy workload of Sabathia and the Brewers' winless record at Citizens Bank Park, so I won't go over that again. There are a few other factors, though, that could play a role in this game.
One is that, in addition to sending a left-handed starter to the mound, the Brewers also have three lefties in their bullpen. In late-inning match-up situation, this could come up key, as they can send a tough lefty to face Howard and Utley. This is a luxury that many pitching staffs don't have.
However, aside from the lefties, the Milwaukee bullpen is generally poor and probably the weakest part of this team. Although they did pitch well today, the Brewers don't want to go to the 'pen early two games in a row. If Sabathia gets knocked out early, it could be a long day for the Brew Crew.
For the Phillies: The Phillies bullpen, on the other hand, has been a strong point for the team all year. Not only are they good, but well-rested as well, as the Phillies clinched the division on Saturday, and of the main parts, only Brad Lidge has pitched since then. If Myers should get chased early, they will be in good position to throw other good arms at the Brewers.
One possible problem that has arisen lately, though, is that Brad Lidge has not been sharp. TBS showed an interesting stat, that, including today, he has needed 24 or more pitches to complete 5 of his last 6 saves. He has struggles with his fastball control lately, forcing him to rely too much on the slider, which, when overused, loses its effectiveness.
The Brewers got a good, long look at Lidge today and if tomorrow's game is close again, they will likely feel comfortable facing him in the ninth.
I'm not going to make a prediction on this game, but with these pitchers and the powerful line-ups they're facing, I will say that I don't think there will be a lot of runs manufactured. Most likely, this game will come down to one or two timely big hits, possibly home runs, that will sway the momentum one way or the other.
Aside from that, if I may have a moment of bias please, to say "Go Phillies!"