Phillies sure to match Brewers' hunger
Early exit from '07 postseason gives Philadelphia motivation
PHILADELPHIA -- The Brewers head into Game 1 of their National League Division Series against the Phillies on Wednesday having just survived one of the toughest final baseball weeks imaginable to make the playoffs."With what this team just went through over the last week at home, tomorrow's going to be nothing to them," said Brewers manager Dale Sveum, referring to a week that ended with his club winning the NL Wild Card on Sunday. "It's obviously been a crazy last seven days for these guys, and they came through it with flying colors. Tomorrow is pretty much a cakewalk compared to what they just went through." Whether it's a cakewalk or not for the Brewers -- having won six of their past seven games -- is still to be determined. The Phillies, trying to atone for last year's NLDS sweep by the Rockies, are certainly going to put up a fight.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said during Tuesday's workouts at Citizens Bank Park that his team has learned from the experience of last postseason, when it dropped the first two games of the series at home and never recovered."Hopefully, we'll be ready this year for the experience," Utley said. "We obviously were excited to get there last year, but it didn't last very long. It ended so quickly. I don't think we had time to let it all sink in. This year, we're going to try and take advantage of it and continue to play good baseball." The Brewers are immediately hampered without the injured Ben Sheets, who is likely to miss the entire postseason with a tear near his right elbow and is not on Milwaukee's NLDS roster. Thus in Game 1, the Brewers will start right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who has pitched only four innings in the past five months because of right knee surgery. His last start came against the Pirates on Thursday, when the Brewers most needed it. Gallardo will face Phillies ace left-hander Cole Hamels. Sveum said he has all the expectations in the world for Gallardo, who threw 67 pitches against the Bucs. "He can go nine innings, if he throws 10, 11 pitches an inning," Sveum said. "So my expectation is that he'll throw a complete game and then we'll worry about the rest of it when it happens." In a home run-hitting park, the two teams are fairly equal. Philadelphia led the NL with 214 homers, and the Brewers finished third behind the Phillies and Marlins with 198. "These are two good clubs that are recognized for offense," said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. "There are a lot of similarities -- the two big first basemen [the Phillies' Ryan Howard and the Brewers' Prince Fielder], who can swing the bat. It should be a good series." The postseason experience of the two teams is also quite comparable. The Brewers haven't won a postseason game since Game 5 of their 1982 World Series loss to the Cardinals, and the Phillies haven't won one since Game 5 of their 1993 World Series loss to the Blue Jays. Melvin said on Tuesday that his club's drought will be a pleasure to put in the past. "We felt the pressure," Melvin said. "I'm not sure the players felt that, because some of these players weren't even born 26 years ago. When I was in Texas, they hadn't [ever] won, and you can't help but keep reading that. It can be tough, because a lot of things have to go right to win. You have to be free of injuries, and I think you have to have at least one big year from somebody you didn't count on." The Phillies had to go to the wire again themselves. For the second consecutive year, they had to battle into the final weekend to capture the NL East title -- winning six of their last eight -- and did so this year on the season's penultimate day. Hamels, who lost Game 1 at home to the Rockies last Oct. 3, said on Tuesday that he now knows how important it is jump out quickly in a short series. "I think it would be pretty nice," Hamels said. "We didn't get any [wins] last year. I think this year, we definitely want to get off on the right page and start off the way we know we're capable of doing. Last year, we just weren't able to do it. That was in the past, and this year is a completely new year."
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.