One club will profit at other's expense
Brewers or Phillies to see end of dubious postseason streak
The last time these two teams played each other, the Phillies just clobbered the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park.The four-game sweep from Sept. 11-14 came during a streak when the Brew Crew lost nine of 10, costing manager Ned Yost his job. Since Sept. 15, when Dale Sveum replaced Yost, the Brewers have been 7-5, but a late five-game winning streak put them back into position to win the National League Wild Card berth on the final day of the regular season.
"I like the way the team's been playing," said Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, who presided over the decision to dismiss Yost with just 12 games left in the regular season. "I like the energy they have been playing with. [General manager] Doug [Melvin] and I made a decision, and we're moving forward. The results will speak for themselves."The Brewers will tee off against the Phils for the first time in a best-of-five NL Division Series, beginning on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET on TBS at Citizens Bank Park. It is Philadelphia's second consecutive postseason visit and that hasn't happened for that franchise since 1980-81. It has been 26 years since the Brewers have been to the postseason, and keep in mind, they had never done it as an NL team. It was the second-longest drought among the current Major League clubs and came only two years after the Phillies won the only World Series in franchise history when they defeated the Royals in 1980. Only the Expos/Nationals have missed the playoffs longer than the Brewers, having gone as far as the NL Championship Series in 1981. The Brewers lost to the Cardinals in a seven-game 1982 World Series and haven't been there since. They flipped from the American League Central to the NL Central in 1998. The two teams have this much in common: The Brewers haven't won a postseason game since defeating the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 1982 World Series, and the Phillies haven't won one since beating the Blue Jays in Game 5 of a 1993 Fall Classic they lost in six games in Toronto. The last time the Phils won a playoff series was the 1993 NLCS over the Braves. The last time the Brewers did it was in the 1982 ALCS against the Angels. The Phils had missed the playoffs for 14 consecutive years until they outlasted the Mets on the final day of last season to win the NL East. They were subsequently swept by the Rockies in the NLDS. Thus, one of these two teams is going to move on, ending at least one postseason drought. The Phils, who are one of the best-hitting teams in the NL, got better last winter because of the acquisition from the Astros of closer Brad Lidge, who was 41-for-41 in save situations this season. Last year, the entire bullpen had 42 saves and Brett Myers posted the most with 21. The Phillies had a strong September and went 17-8. First baseman Ryan Howard had a monster month, hitting .352 with 11 homers, seven doubles and 32 RBIs. Overall for the season, he led the Major Leagues with 48 homers and 146 RBIs. Only one other player, Adam Dunn of the D-backs, had 40 homers. Josh Hamilton of the Rangers was closest to Howard with 130 RBIs. David Wright of the Mets was second in the NL with 124. That's how dominant the lefty-swinging Howard was this season on a team that led the NL with 214 homers and was third with 799 runs scored. The Brewers, in contrast, struggled down the stretch and went 10-16 in September. On Sept. 1, they had a 5 1/2-game lead in the NL Wild Card race, but then had to recoup under Sveum to win a playoff spot. Their big move of the season was the July 7 trade that brought in CC Sabathia, last year's AL Cy Young Award winner, from the Indians. Sabathia was 11-2 with 1.65 ERA in 17 starts since the deal, and the Brewers wouldn't have made the playoffs without him. Offensively, the Brewers are led by first baseman Prince Fielder, who hit .276 with 34 homers and 102 RBIs. That came off a 2007 season during which Milwaukee faded late out of the NL Central race, and Fielder hit .288 with 50 homers and 119 RBIs to win the Hank Aaron Award in the NL. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees won the award in the AL. Like Howard, Fielder's September contribution has been enormous. For the month, he hit .316 with nine doubles, six homers and 21 RBIs. Of course, Fielder had enormous help from Ryan Braun, who led the team with 37 homers, including a walk-off grand slam last Thursday to beat the Pirates and a two-run, eighth- inning homer on Sunday against the Cubs to clinch the Wild Card.
In 1982, when the Brewers were primarily owned by Commissioner Bud Selig, coincidentally there also was a managerial change: from Buck Rogers to Harvey Kuenn, although much earlier in the season. One of the big bats that year was Cecil Cooper, the current Astros manager, who was the first baseman. He hit .313 with 32 homers and 121 RBIs.But the roster that won the club's only AL pennant was replete with Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. Three players hit 30 or more homers (Gorman Thomas led with 39) and Yount hit 29, just missing the cut. It seems like a lifetime since then, just as it has been a lifetime since the Phillies of Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Larry Bowa and Steve Carlton last won the World Series. Only time will tell how it will all play out this postseason.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.