"Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years" ----LL Cool J
These seminal lyrics from rap music royalty may not be completely appropriate for the Milwaukee Brewers. They haven't been here for years. Twenty six, to be exact. However, for the Brewers to move on to the NLCS, they have to consider each game their last, they have to sweep the Philadelphia Phillies.
Analysts will compare the pitching matchups of Game Four, compare the starting lineups, measure the depth of each team's bullpen.
But the biggest weapon that the Brewers have right now is momentum. And it swung sharply in the favor of Dale Sveum's team.
Momentum is something that cannot be measured. Unlike, say, Ryan Howard's slugging at night on the road. Bill James nor the Elias Sports Bureau can show years of numbers measuring this element of sports.
Going into today's Game Three, the momentum was clearly in the Philadelphia Phillies' favor. They outclassed the Brewers to a 2-0 lead in the best of five series. Two days earlier, they frustrated stud mountain of an ace C.C. Sabathia enough to knock him out after 3 2/3 innings. The Phightin's had to like the pitching matchup of Dave Bush vs. Jamie Moyer, who always seems to come up big in big games.
Five game series can be fleeting. They are here and gone before you know it. Just ask the 2007 edition of the Phillies.
However, Dave Bush set the tone in the first inning by striking out the first two hitters and retiring Chase Utley on an easy comebacker on the first pitch. The only way to get the home crowd any louder in Miller Park was if it was Free Miller Lite Six-Pack Night.
The Brewers offense further swung the momentum when they coaxed a couple of walks out of Jamie Moyer (who was missing his spots and not getting the low strike call that he needs to be successful), a wild pitch and a single to spot themselves a 2-0 lead in the first.
But the Phils hung around. Or better said, the Brewers never got the knockout blow that they were looking for. They repeatedly had runners in scoring position. Corey Hart ran them out of a possible scoring opportunity when Jayson Werth made a strong backdoor throw at first after Hart took a careless wide turn. All in all, the Brewers left twelve men on base.
The longer a favored team lets an underdog team hang around, the more they feel, "hey we can beat these guys (insert your favorite upset here, mine will be a shoutout to the Villanova Wildcats upset of the Georgetown Hoyas)."
And the longer you keep a dangerous lineup within striking distance, the better the chance they are going to pounce. Especially those who hit three-run homers like presidential candidates like to use the word "change" these days.
So enter Brewers' closer Salomon Torres. The closer who has blown seven of his 35 regular-season save opportunities promptly loaded the bases. For the first time all night, it got quiet in Miller Park.
In defense of Torres, he wasn't throwing BP fastballs. Ryan Howard led off with a single up the middle on 2-1 fastball on the outside black. Greg Dobbs, pinch-hitter extraordinaire, laid off three tough pitches after falling behind 0-2, to line a single up the middle. Shane Victorino lob-wedged a 1-2 pitch that was a foot outside to load the bases.
These were professional at-bats.
At this point, the momentum is clearly back in the Phillies direction. Based juiced. No one out. Go ahead run at the plate. The grip gets a little tighter from the pitcher. The strike zone looks a little smaller.
Pedro Feliz had the opportunity to bring the Phils closer to tying the game, even put them ahead with a blast. But a notorious first-pitch hitter, and a pull hitter at that, he hooked a slider for a 5-4-3 double play.
Momentum stopped in its track for the Phils.
The Brewers end up winning 4-1. Will the Brewers build on this win? Depends a lot on Game 4 starter Jeff Suppan. Will the Phillies think this is a must-win game with the implications of facing C.C. in Game Five?
Don't call Bill James for your answer.