CC struggles as Crew faces 0-2 deficit
Phillies get to ace lefty early, while bats continue to struggle
PHILADELPHIA -- From the early July night he arrived in Milwaukee to the late September afternoon he pitched the Brewers into the postseason, CC Sabathia was out of this world. It was like he was sent from above to rescue a franchise stuck in a quarter-century rut.On this Thursday in October, in yet another start on short rest, in yet another game his team simply had to win, Sabathia finally appeared human after all. "I needed to come out here and pitch a good game tonight," Sabathia said. "And I didn't do that. So you can blame this loss squarely on me."
Making his fourth straight start on three days' rest, Sabathia surrendered five Phillies runs in a second inning that included Shane Victorino's two-out grand slam, and did not make it through the end of the fourth as the hit-starved Brewers suffered a 5-2 loss that left them with a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five National League Division Series.Fifty-three times before this season, a Major League team has fallen into a 2-0 hole in a five-game postseason series. Forty-six times -- including in 1981, when the Brewers lost to the Yankees in a decisive fifth game -- that team has been unable to dig out. But the Brewers were also one of the lucky seven to advance, in 1982, when they overcame an early deficit to beat the Angels in the American League Championship Series. Four teams have come back from 0-2 Division Series deficits since the current Wild Card format was introduced in 1995, but all were American League clubs: the 1995 Mariners, the 1999 Red Sox, the 2001 Yankees and the 2003 Red Sox. Teams are 0-16 in the NLDS when falling behind two games to none. In 13 of those 16 series, the result was a sweep.
NLDS 2-0 leads
|Sixteen teams have been behind 2-0 in NLDS history; none have won. In 13 of those 16, the series ended in a three-game sweep.|
"Our backs are against the wall," said infielder Craig Counsell, who drove in one of two Brewers runs on a groundout. "You don't hide from that. There's urgency. You're playing to play the next day."The teams will be off Friday before Game 3 at Miller Park on Saturday night. It will be the Brewers' first home playoff game since Game 5 of the 1982 World Series. Sabathia (0-1) allowed five runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings and fell to 2-3 in five career postseason starts with a 7.92 ERA. He threw a whopping 98 pitches and walked four batters, one of them intentionally, and now will not pitch again in the series unless the Brewers can win Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee to force a Game 5 back in Philadelphia. Philadelphia right-hander Brett Myers (1-0) beat the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park for the second time in less than three weeks, allowing two runs on two hits in seven strong innings. He also threw a two-hit shutout against Milwaukee here on Sept. 14, when the Phillies won both ends of a doubleheader and finished a four-game series sweep. Now as back then, the Brewers just can't get their offense to go. They had three hits in Game 2 and have seven hits in the series. "We're just not scoring enough runs," said cleanup hitter Prince Fielder, who was 0-for-3 including a groundout to end the eighth inning with two runners on base. "Right now I'm just kind of garbage. Hopefully I can pick it up. They're pitching well, but we need to learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately, we're not doing that right now." Fielder was asked whether he was disappointed, or downright mad. "Both," he said. "I think we're better than what we're playing right now." While the offense sputtered, so did Sabathia. He was coming off an emotional 122-pitch complete-game win over the Cubs on Sunday that clinched the NL Wild Card and propelled the Brewers into the playoffs. But on Thursday, he was burned as much by Myers as by Victorino.
|Here's a look at Sabathia's postseason numbers following Thursday night's loss:|
|2001 (Indians): 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 1 GS, 6 IP, 6 H,|
2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 5 K
|2007 (Indians): 1-2, 8.80 ERA, 3 GS, 15 1/3 IP,|
21 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 3 HR, 3 HBP, 13 BB, 14 K
|2008 (Brewers): 0-1, 12.27 ERA, 1 GS, 3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 4 BB, 5 K|
|Totals: 2-3, 7.92, 5 GS, 25 IP, 33 H, 22 R, 22 ER, |
4 HR, 3 HBP, 22 BB, 24 K
Myers had a pair of long at-bats against Sabathia that totaled 19 pitches, including a nine-pitch battle with two outs that ended in a walk in the decisive second inning. The game was tied at 1 when Myers elicited a standing ovation with his walk, and Sabathia then walked Jimmy Rollins on four pitches to load the bases for Victorino.On a 1-2 count, Sabathia tried to bury a breaking ball in the dirt. He calls it his cutter, others refer to it as a slider, and either way it was supposed to land somewhere near Victorino's back foot. Instead, it hung high and tight and Victorino turned on it, sending the baseball into the left-field seats. It was the second grand slam hit off Sabathia in his career, and both have come this season. Detroit's Edgar Renteria hit one on April 16. "This game for me was about finishing," Sabathia said. "I had some opportunities to get out of some innings and get out of some at-bats, and I just didn't finish when I needed to." "But [Sabathia] was one of the guys who got us here," Fielder added. "He's going to have a bad one every now and then." Myers put together another applause-worthy at-bat in the fourth inning, a 10-pitch fight that ended in a flyout. After a Rollins double -- one of six in the game for the Phillies, tying the club's playoff record -- Sabathia intentionally walked Victorino and then unintentionally walked Chase Utley. Reliever Mitch Stetter struck out Ryan Howard in relief to avoid further damage to Sabathia's final line. It might have been a different game had the Brewers made more of a first-inning opportunity to do major damage against a wild Myers. With the bases loaded, J.J. Hardy drew one of three Myers walks in the inning -- one was intentional, to Fielder -- to score Ray Durham, but Corey Hart followed by swinging at a first-pitch slider and tapping a ball back to the mound. Myers initiated an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play. "They took advantage of a bases-loaded opportunity and we didn't," Brewers manager Dale Sveum said. "It was kind of the difference in the ballgame." Hart was surrounded by reporters after the game. He was asked a kinder version of "What in the world were you thinking?" "It's easy for people to sit back and look at it," Hart said. "It's a little different when you're going out and doing it." In each of his two remaining at-bats, Hart took the first pitch. He was not the only one who tried a more patient approach. "Nothing is working right now with a lot of the guys," Hart said. "We're trying to see pitches and see what we can do. ... I'm not going to sit there and walk, though. I'll eventually find it, and hopefully we'll still be in it."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.