Phillies, Brewers seek more offense
Slugging teams out to score more runs in NLDS Game 2
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies and Brewers live and die by the long ball and combined to hit 412 home runs this past season. And wouldn't you know it, during Wednesday's Game 1 Phillies victory in their National League Division Series, both teams combined for eight hits, none of them homers.
Heading into Thursday's Game 2 back at Citizens Bank Park, the word out of the clubhouses was that both teams need to generate more offense to get the job done.Brewers ace left-hander CC Sabathia is slated to start for the fourth consecutive game on three days' rest against Phils right-hander Brett Myers. But it's now up to the offenses to get kick-started. "We've just to get something going offensively to give our guys a chance to win," said Milwaukee center fielder Mike Cameron after the Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. "We need to go out and play better baseball tomorrow. We didn't play good baseball today." Philadelphia's three runs Wednesday were all unearned, courtesy of second baseman Rickie Weeks flubbing a catch covering first base on a third-inning sacrifice bunt and a ball that popped out of Cameron's glove that was scored a two-run double for Chase Utley. Otherwise, the Phillies could manage only three other hits, all of them singles and only one of them coming after the fourth inning. "A lot of times in the postseason, it's a lot about pitching," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "The pitchers, they're really bearing down and they're focused and they're concentrating on what they want to do. That's what happens sometimes. Hitters, they might be a little tight and anxious. And they don't put the runs on the board they usually can do at times." Still, for a team that led the NL with 214 homers and finished second by scoring 799 runs, it's not their usual recipe for winning ballgames. The Phillies are hardly a team that plays "little ball," bunting over a lot of runners or running amok on the bases. But in the end, those things may make the difference, said Ryan Howard, their big slugging first baseman. "The little things are going to become the big things," said Howard, who walked three times (once intentionally) and struck out once in Game 1. "We've got to try to take advantage of as many of their mistakes as possible." As far as the Phillies winning behind eight innings of no-run, two-hit ball thrown by Cole Hamels and surviving a rough Brad Lidge outing in the ninth, Howard said that's the way it goes in the postseason sometimes. "That's not really weird," Howard said. "You expect the other team to step it up in the playoffs. You're not going to hit home runs every day. We know that. We just have to figure out how to put up some runs some way somehow." The Brewers have been living on the precipice for almost two weeks. In their past six games, they've scored only 21 runs. Their method has been to score little, but score late and win mostly on the long ball. Three of their past five wins have come on last-at-bat homers, one by Prince Fielder and two by Ryan Braun, who clinched the NL's Wild Card berth with his two-out, eighth-inning homer Sunday against the Cubs. He also added a walk-off, 10th-inning grand slam this past Thursday against the Pirates. But on Wednesday, the Brewers were lifeless against Hamels only to come alive when Lidge replaced him in the ninth inning. True to form, the Brewers threatened, but this time Corey Hart left the tying runs on second and third when he struck out to end the game. Craig Counsell, a backup Brewers infielder who played for the Diamondbacks when they beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, said this is no recipe for the Brewers to win, either. "It's not the way you want to do it," he said. "You don't want to struggle for six innings and then depend on late rallies. I think we need to score some runs early in the games. It's so much easier to play these games when you have the lead. You need to manufacture some runs."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.