Thom Loverro: Hamels fires the first salvo in arms race

It could have been one for the ages - CC Sabathia vs. Cole Hamels in Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The way Hamels pitched in the Phillies’ 3-1 win over the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday, you only can imagine how a matchup against Sabathia, who dominated the NL with an 11-2 record after he was traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee, might have been. They still might be pitching.

But the Phillies got the luck of the rotation, throwing out their ace in a mismatch against Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers had to use theirs just to get to Philadelphia.

Milwaukee will turn to Sabathia on Thursday in Game 2, hoping for a similar mismatch against the Phillies’ Brett Myers.

It could have been so different for the Brewers if they hadn’t been forced to limp into the playoffs. At one point not long ago, they seemed to have a necessary ingredient for postseason baseball success - two pitching studs in Sabathia and Ben Sheets.

But Sheets, sidelined with a sore elbow, isn’t even on the postseason roster.

So can the Brewers do as much against Myers as the Phillies did against Gallardo, who pitched well enough for his team to win, on Wednesday?

Sabathia can step in and at least come close to matching Hamels’ brilliant performance. The Phillies left-hander allowed just two hits and struck out nine in eight innings. We know Sabathia can do that.

Can Myers do that if he has to?

When asked about matching up against Sabathia, Myers said: “I’m not facing him. The hitters have to face him. I have to face the Brewers lineup. That’s the No. 1 goal for me, to get their hitters out and try to keep the game close so that we can get some runs and hopefully win it.”

He did that and more when he faced the Brewers in September, holding them to just two hits and one run in nine innings. For his career, Myers has handled Milwaukee hitters well, with a 1.77 ERA in 35 2/3 innings.

Myers downplayed his record against the Brewers, particularly his last outing.

“It’s a totally different atmosphere,” he said. “Our fans were out for that game and everything. But this is the playoffs. And it’s a little different because guys are going to step up a little bit more than they have in the past.

“We did beat them three games in a row before I started, and they might have been a little down,” Myers said. “But now they’re in the playoffs, and everybody is going to be up for this.”

The Brewers, though, likely will be a little down for Game 2 because losing the opener has such an impact on a five-game division series. In NL five-game series play, the team winning Game 1 has gone on to win the series 23 of 26 times.

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