Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Phillies-Brewers: Game 1

The Phillies, fresh off their second straight division title, will play host to the Brewers this afternoon for the Game 1 of the NLDS. Thanks to the Mets' (and Nationals') ineptitude, Philadelphia was able to line up the rotation to its liking and send out Cole Hamels for Game 1. And thanks again to the Mets, who made it close enough that the Brewers had to deploy their ace, C.C. Sabathia, in the second to last game of the year, assuring that he could not start Game 1. There aren't many pitchers better than Hamels, but C.C. is one of them.

The Brewers late scramble for the wildcard and the subsequent handling of the rotation should pay huge dividends for the Phillies. As it stands, Hamels will dodge Sabathia in Game 1 and instead face Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo is one of the most talented pitching prospects in baseball, but he has barely pitched this year, having suffered an injury in May that kept him out until, well, last Thursday.

Gallardo threw 67 pitches last week against the Pirates. Considering the short leash he was on, he performed admirably. He pitched four innings and allowed one run (a solo homer) while striking out seven. Of course this forced the Brewers to go to their bullpen early and they would use seven relievers that night (though two of them came in the 10th inning).

Starting Gallardo in Game 1 brings up the question of his endurance. Obviously the 67 pitches was a precautionary measure, but how carefully will he be handled in the playoffs? What is more important to the Brewers, this game or Gallardo's arm? My guess would be that Gallardo will be on a short pitch count again, though he may go up to 85-90 pitches, rather than staying south of 70 again.

The Phillies can only hope this is the case, as Gallardo has the stuff to give them fits if he is truly healthy. Furthermore, the bullpen is not exactly Milwaukee's strong point and if Gallardo has another short outing today, the Phillies hitters will be licking their chops.

One notable stat to point out about Gallardo: He has pitched his worst in day games. In ten games (8 starts) he has a 4.73 ERA. This could be a fluke, or it could well mean that he's easier to hit in the light of day, when hitters can see his pitches better. Of course Hamels' numbers are a little worse in day games as well, but the Phillies can at least expect him to give them 6-7 innings. The same can't be said for Gallardo.

Ultimately, the Brewers' difficulty in simply making the playoffs, plus the resulting pitching decisions, should give the Phillies a decided advantage in this series.

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