- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2008

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.

After the game, Hamels said he knew the importance of winning the opener.

“I had the understanding of what it is when you do win the first game, the momentum that it, I guess, causes and especially at home,” he said. “It’s just the excitement level and just the feeling that you can get. And so going into today, I tried to be as relaxed as I possibly could. Yet I still wanted to go out there and win just because I knew what it would do for our team. And I think that’s something where, from the very first pitch in the first inning, I gave that confidence in our players.”

It gave them confidence enough to score three runs in the third, aided by a error by Rickie Weeks and a two-run double by Chase Utley that fell out of center fielder Mike Cameron’s glove. Last year in the division series, the big Phillies three - Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins - failed to show up in a sweep by the Colorado Rockies. So it was a confidence booster that Utley delivered this time.

“Utley’s hit, of course, was big,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We didn’t really what we call hit the ball. I give credit to their pitchers. Plus, like we might have been trying a little bit too hard, but at the same time their pitchers did a good job, and I look at it this way: like we hit just good enough to win the game. So tomorrow we might get after big CC.”

Manuel, of course, was joking about getting after “big CC.” That’s not likely to happen. Runs will be tough to come by for the Phillies, who will need Myers to make it a pitching matchup for the ages.

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