JEFF: Scouting Game One
By Jeff Falconio
Not to go into hyped-up overdrive mode, but Game One will be the most important game for the Brewers in the divisional series with Philadelphia. Aside from the usual benefits of winning the first game and stealing homefield advantage, a lot is going to have to go right for the Brewers this afternoon. Plus as you look ahead in the series, the Phillies will use the always-baffling Jamie Moyer in Game Three and while CC Sabathia gets the start tomorrow, you have to wonder how much longer he can continue to be effective pitching on three days rest.
Look at today's starting pitchers. Yovani Gallardo starts for the second time since coming off an ACL injury. If Gallardo can get five strong innings of work the Brewers might be in good shape but then you have to turn it over to the bullpen. Although the bullpen performed well during the last week of the regular season, we know how streaky that group can be. Meanwhile Philadelphia gives the starting nod to ace Cole Hamels. Despite a 14-10 record, Hamels is a solid pitcher with a 3.09 ERA and the ability to get deep into the game.
A big part of winning this first game will be getting to Hamels early. That's easier said than done though as Hamels is 5-2 in his last nine starts. Hamels went 14 innings and gave up only three runs in the two no-decisions so that tells you how tough it is to score on the lefty. Hamels faced the Brewers during that stretch, going 6 1/3 while giving up two runs. He also walked a season-high three batters, a number he reached multiple times during the season. That would suggest the need to manufacture runs and although the Brewers showed signs of playing small ball under Dale Sveum, it's still not the preferred method for scoring runs.
Why is it so important to get early offense off Hamels? Because late inning heroics are going to be scarce for the Brewers today. Philadelphia's bullpen was brilliant down the stretch, other than the near meltdown against the Nationals on Saturday. Closer Brad Lidge has been lights out all season, converting 41 saves in 41 opportunities. Certainly the Brewers have not been as automatic as the Phillies in the ninth inning. Meanwhile, setup guy Ryan Madson yielded all of one earned run in the month of September and was a huge part of Philadelphia's surge to the top of the NL East. So today, you're dealing with a consistent starter who can go seven, a nearly-untouchable setup guy and an automatic closer. Not exactly the way you'd like to start your first postseason appearance since 1982.