NLDS: Phillies vs. Brewers

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tomorrow the National League East Division champion Philadelphia Phillies will open up the National League Division Series against the wild card winners Milwaukee Brewers. A lot of people have not been mentioning it but I believe there is a ton of pressure on the Phillies this year.

Unfortunately for the Philadelphia faithful the Phillies ran into the proverbial buzz saw last year that was the Colorado Rockies. The Phillies had clinched the NL East on the final day of the season in 2007 and the Rockies rode an unbelievable winning streak that carried them to a one game playoff with the San Diego Padres for the right to be named the wild card of the National League. Matt Holliday carried the Rockies and their young arms to the playoffs and continued their story book-esque wild ride all the way to the World Series, sweeping the hometown Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks before the magic ran out against the Boston Red Sox.

That NLDS against the Rockies stung me as a Phillies fan. I had waited since 1993 for postseason baseball and I didn't even get to see a victory. The Rockies out pitched and out hit the Phillies and shocked me. Cole Hamels started game one against the Rockies and got beat around early, forcing him to remove his long sleeve shirt as he was exhausted too early. He pitched better after ditching the long sleeves. Kyle Kendrick and Kyle Lohse gave up too many hits and base runners in a blowout loss in game two. And Jamie Moyer did all he could stave off elimination, but the Rockies would not be denied once the bullpen came in. J.C. Romero gave up the eventual game winner and just like that the Phillies, who had celebrated just a week earlier by hosing the fans and dumping beer and champagne on one another and various female sports reporters in the locker room, were going home to watch the rest of the playoffs with the rest of us.

I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that series a year later. I believe the Phillies have that same sentiment this year. Of course they had celebrated their division championship but it seemed to me that they were a little more reserved because they expected to be here and expect to do more this year.

As Jimmy Rollins said, last year they got a taste of the pumpkin pie and this year everyone else is craving it. Meanwhile, Rollins and company are looking for more of the pie. In order to do that they will have some ghosts to overcome.

Can you imagine what it would be like in Philadelphia if the Phillies were to lose in the first round again? Where last year you can take the defeat with a grain of salt because the Rockies were on a magical ride, losing again this year would be devastating.With all of the talk form the beginning of the season about taking the next step, winning 100 games, and now talking about going further than last year, and the hype all season about the likes of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and more the expectation from the start was that this Phillies team had the makings of a World Series contender from the National League. Really, nothing short of a World Series appearance would be acceptable. A loss in game seven of the NLCS to the Cubs would be the only possible exception. But this team has made us all believe that a World Series appearance is well within reach. It it time to back that theory up.

Let's take a look today at the pitching match ups for the first few games.

Starting Pitching
Game One
Cole Hamels vs. Yovanni Gallardo

As I mentioned above, Hamels had a rough outing in his first post season start. Hamels allowed three runs in the second inning following a lead off triple followed by RBI hits and a bases loaded walk. He walked four Rockies but didn't allow a run after the second inning, which is when he removed the long sleeves. I'm sure Hamels will be thinking about his last appearance in the post season as well as some of his starts coming down the stretch. I have mentioned before that I feel Hamels is coming up short of his potential, so hopefully the extra time off will give him the rest he needs for a stellar performance.

Game Two
Brett Myers vs. CC Sabathia
This is a game you can probably pencil in as a loss. Sabathia has been nothing short of dominant since being traded to the Brewers. In his short time with the team he has pitched seven complete games, including his last two outings on short rest. To put it simply, the guy is a horse on the mounds. This season he has thrown over 250 strikeouts and has an ERA of 2.70.

As if facing Sabathia wasn't going to be tough enough the Phillies will have to hope that Myers can come in pitching like he was before his last two games against the Marlins and the Braves. Since coming back from his stint at Lehigh Myers had been phenomenal. Then he started getting bashed by a pair of division foes. Who knows which Brett Myers will show up in game two. The Phillies will clearly need a strong Myers to show up as Sabathia will likely have a good game ready to go.

Sabathia does have some post season ghosts of his own though, evidenced by last year's melting down against the Red Sox when he pitched for the Cleveland Indians. Sabathia gave up eight to Boston in game one of the ALCS and also took the loss in game five.

Game Three
Jamie Moyer vs TBA

Moyers has been outstanding this season. In a pivotal game three there is nobody else I would rather see (from the Phillies) on the mound. Whether the series is 2-0 Phillies, tied at one, or an unfathomable 0-2 deficit, Moyer is the man I want to see take control of the game. He was outstanding in last year's game three in Colorado, limiting the Rockies to one run. Moyer just knows how to slow momentum on the other team and he gets inside the heads of not only the batters but also the base runners.

The Brewers have yet to decide who will pitch in game three. The loss of Ben Sheets from the rotation will be a huge obstacle to overcome. It could be a toss up between Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan.

Looking forward to watching game one tomorrow. For your information, here is the schedule for the NLDS between the Phillies and Brewers:

Game 1 - 3pm (Phillies)
Game 2 - 6pm (Phillies)
Game 3 - 6:30pm (Brewers)
Game 4 - TBD (Brewers)
Game 5 - TBD (Phillies)

All games will be shown on TBS (in high definition!) so get yourself prepared for more Frank Caliendo. Man is this comedian overdone yet?

Anyway, I am going on record and predicting the Phillies will win the series in four games. What are your thoughts on the series? Feel free to leave them in the comments section, along with your prediction for this series as well as any of the other series.

Blog note: As I did during the Flyers post season run, I'll be throwing up some open threads for each Phillies game so feel free to leave your comments on the games as they develop there if you wish. Stay tuned.

This is what you play for.

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