We continue our seven-part look at the NLDS.
Part VII : Prediction
I’m not all keen about making a prediction for this series, because it can go so many ways. Literally, I’m nervous about this first game, because it means everything.
Dale Sveum made an ingenious move, whether he planned it or not, to have CC Sabathia start game two. Because of it, there’s a very good chance Milwaukee comes back to their home right after a win. Sure, Sabathia is beatable — as is any major league pitcher — but the Brewers have to love their chances at a split, while grabbing the momentum heading home.
That makes today absolutely crucial. The Phillies shouldn’t be down 2-0 heading into Milwaukee. They can make it up — games three and four should be the best chances for the Phils to batter their pitching — but it would be unbelievably tough.
If we learned anything from last season’s NLDS, it’s that starting pitching is everything, and clutch hitting is a little less than everything. The Phils need good innings from their middle rotation guys, and dominant innings from their top two guys. It starts with Cole Hamels — time for him to be a big-game pitcher. Seven innings of one-run ball? Yes.
Yovani Gallardo will be extremely tough to beat, but if the Phils are smart they’ll be patient and get him pulled after five or so. The Phils can hit the Brewers’ bullpen. If Cole does his thing today, the Phils win.
They may not win game two, but if they stay with Sabathia, and Brett Myers pitches the game of his life, the Phils are in great shape to take that one. A 2-0 lead going into Milwaukee is a series win.
But I’m cautious. I can see game one being a 2-2 game going into the eighth, and one of the Phillie relievers blowing up out of nowhere. I’m more thinking about a win, but this scenario isn’t far from the center of my brain.
Earlier I was about to write that the Brewers will win the series 3-1. Not kidding. This is a trap series — they’re throwing out an unknown wild card in game one, coming with their known ace in game two and letting the home crowd lead them to the win. Then I thought, they can hang with Gallardo and crush the pen in game one. Then they can hang with Sabathia and maybe even beat him in game two. Maybe they slip up in game three, but watch as Blanton throws a gem in game four.
I’m going with the Phillies in four. I’m going with a win off Sabathia in game two.
But I’m not entirely sold, and I’ll be doubting my pick all day. And the next. And so on.