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NLDS Preview Part VI : From The Other Side

We continue our seven-part look at the NLDS.

Part VI : From The Other Side

Blog: Phillies Nation (www.philliesnation.com)
Writer: Tim Malcolm
City’s Chief Exports: Cheesesteaks, The Hooters, “Boy Meets World.”
Cute Thing Blog Does Regularly: Gameday beer choices for your viewing and imbibing pleasure.

Blog: Brew Crew Ball (www.brewcrewball.com)
Writer: Jeff Sackmann
City’s Chief Exports: Cheeseheads, Violent Femmes, “Step By Step.” (I’d say “Laverne & Shirley and “Happy Days,” but they didn’t fit with the TGIF theme.)
Cute Thing Blog Does Regularly: The Frosty Beer Mug, a daily collection of links from across the blogosphere/Web.

I recently had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Jeff Sackmann of Brew Crew Ball, the very thorough and humorous Brewers blog. A big thanks to Jeff for taking the time. The following is what transpired:

Tim: Without CC Sabathia, do the Brewers make the playoffs?

Jeff: The way the season played out, no. But keep in mind that the Crew lost Yovani Gallardo after only four starts. The team was built to make a big deadline acquisition — there were even murmurs at last year’s draft that that was the very purpose of drafting Matt LaPorta. We were going to get a boost in July no matter what. In retrospect, Doug Melvin certainly picked the right place to make his move!

The Cubs beat Sabathia twice this season. How did they do it?

Neither time was a disaster for CC (4 ER and 3 ER, respectively), and the offense could’ve bailed him out. Especially the first time, the Cubs were patient — to some extent, that’s how they’re beating everybody, not just 2008’s best pitcher. They managed to eke 124 pitches out of CC against “just” 20 outs that day.

When the Phillies swept the Brewers, many Phils fans noticed some obvious managerial mistakes by Ned Yost. While it’s only been a few weeks, do you see any differences between the mangaing styles of Yost and current manager Dale Sveum?

It’s tough to say. Sveum has been managing like it’s game seven since the day he took over. He’s making some of the same odd bullpen moves that Ned made, and some head-scratching lineup decisions that even Ned didn’t make, but at the same time, some of those choices are for lack of better options. You’d think that no sane person would bat Bill Hall second, but the current state of the Brewers offense doesn’t offer a lot of good solutions.

Especially with Ben Sheets unable to go for the NLDS, how concerned are you with the rotation after Sabathia?

I think it’ll be okay. Dave Bush has been great at home, and Gallardo is going for game one. There are plenty of long-man options in the pen — namely Manny Parra and Seth McClung. Right now, the rotation is made up of one great starter, two mediocre starters (Bush and Suppan), and a pile of half-starters (Gallardo, Parra, McClung, Carlos Villanueva). That’s actually not a bad place to be for a five-game series with two off days.

The Brewers have had a tough time finding consistent outs in the bullpen. So who in the pen will be most integral to success in the division series?

Those long guys will make the difference. Just a few days ago, McClung came through with four innings of clutch scoreless relief; on any given day, that’s something that Villanueva or Parra could do as well. I’d much rather ask them to do it than try to piece together three or four innings from the likes of Mota and Gagne.

Brewers up one, ninth inning, Werth-Utley-Howard coming up. Salomon Torres comes in from the pen. On a scale of 1-10, what is your confidence level?

Let’s call it a 7. Torres has had some hiccups in September, but he was dominant for a couple months.

When I look at the Brewers lineup, I see one a lot like the Phillies’. A couple home run hitters, averages below .290, a lot of strikeouts. Do you envision some high-scoring games in this series?

Not when CC is pitching :). They are similar lineups, and certainly CBP will encourage scoring. But the Brewers offense has been slumping of late, and I’m certainly not going to underestimate Hamels or, for that matter, Jamie Moyer’s ability to make the Milwaukee lineup of 20-somethings look stupid.

Is it a fair assessment to say if the Phillies can keep the meat of the Brewers order off the board, they’ll win this series?

Nope. The Brewers lineup has its holes (Hi there, Jason Kendall!) but when Bill Hall is playing third, everybody from one through seven is a home run threat. Five starters produced 20 homers, and two others — Hall and Weeks — probably would’ve given a full season of playing time. Most of the season, one but not both of Braun and Fielder were hot, and we still managed to get 90 wins out of the deal.

Tell me how a pitcher beats Ryan Braun.

Right now, it might not be that hard. He’s playing through a ribcage injury, and he’s admitted he’s not generating the power he’d like. Then again, he did hit two go-ahead homers in the last week.

The bench seems littered with experienced, veteran names. Who of this group do you think will step up the most in the postseason?

Actually, some of the youngsters seem the most poised — namely Braun and Gallardo. That said, it wouldn’t be the postseason without some heroics from Craig Counsell.

Last season the Phillies raced to the playoffs, and as a green postseason team, folded completely in the division series. How likely is it that this Brewers team faces the same fate, or is that not a concern?

It’s always a concern, sure, but that’s the benefit (I think) of having a balanced team. There’s reason to believe we could get four solid starts out of five games, and there are threats up and down the lineup. Some players probably will crumble under the pressure, but there are plenty of other guys to pick them up.

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