On a night of firsts at Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewers' clubhouse only cares about one: The first victory for the ‘Crew in the postseason since Game Five of the 1982 World Series, with a 4-1 victory over the Phillies.
Dave Bush set the tone in the first, with a one-two-three first inning, on his way to a stellar five-and-one-third innings, giving up just the lone run, helping his team play with the lead for the first time in the series.
Facing elimination, this resilient Brewers squad got two early runs off of Jamie Moyer, who struggled with his command, only going four innings. That was all Milwaukee needed, as the bullpen pitched three-and-two thirds of scoreless ball to close out the game and keep their playoff run going.
The middle of the Brewers' order, which had been struggling in this series, came up with the big swings when Milwaukee needed them, as Braun, Fielder, and Hardy combined to drive in three of the Brewer’s four runs.
It wasn’t all pretty for the Brewers' young sluggers, as those three also combined to leave 10 of the Brewers' 20 stranded base runners in the game.
For two teams known for their offense, this series has been all about pitching and defense. Of the five runs scored tonight, only one came off a hit, JJ Hardy’s RBI single in the first inning.
In three games, there has only been one home run, and it came off a pitcher who had only given up four home runs in the last two months. In fact, in what could have been a clinching game for the Phillies, they went failed to get a single hit with runners in scoring position.
As long as the Brewers keep the Phillies under five runs, they ought to believe they can win any ballgame moving forward. Milwaukee can be an extremely dangerous offensive club, and even if Cole Hamels starts tomorrow on three days rest, the Brewers have had success against the talented lefty before.
At Miller Park in April, Hamels gave up five runs to the Brewers in seven innings, including two bombs to Prince Fielder.
After being overly aggressive in Games One and Two, the Brewers drew five walks against Phillies pitchers. In a regular season, that would be an impressive amount. In a playoff game, facing elimination at home, that is unbelievable.
After seeing the best Hamels had to offer, expect the Brewers hitters to be feeling comfortable and see the ball well. Additionally, while Hamels is certainly no ordinary lefty, the Brewers pound lefties. Getting even three runs off the Phils starter might even be enough to get the victory.
Most importantly though, will be the Brewer’s starting pitching. Sending Gallardo to the bump on three days rest would be a fool’s errand after the way he struggled in Game One. The young ace has plenty of stuff to get Phillies hitters out, but he just didn’t seem right and didn't have his command.
That means Jeff Suppan probably starts the Brewer’s second-straight elimination game. This is the spot General Manger Doug Melvin brought Suppan in to face. His postseason ERA is just 3.0 and under 2.5 in his last two trips. Unfortunately, Suppan has been hit around by the Phillies, both this season and in his career, posting a 5.91 ERA this season against the Phils.
Suppan cannot afford to get behind hitters and have to throw his fastball for strikes. Dave Bush kept the Philly hitters off-balance Saturday night, and Suppan will have to have command of all his pitches to get outs.
Knowing they have CC Sabathia going on full rest in a potential Game Five could lead the Brewers to throw a bullpen game. Seth McClung was solid in Philadelphia, not to mention tremendous down the stretch for the Brewers.
“Chuckie,” as he is affectionately known, could team with Carlos Villanueva, despite his extensive work in this series, to each go three innings and keep the Brewers in the ballgame.
As long as Brewer’s hitters remain patient, and the pitching holds up, the Brewers have reason to believe they become just the eighth team to come back from an 0-2 hole to win a five-game series. After all, the '82 Brewers were the first team to do it. The '08 Brewers would like to be the most recent.