10/01/08 8:53 PM ET
Crew feels quiet bats won't be a habit
Generally powerful offense struggles against Phils' Hamels
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Getting such a late start is not the ideal way to open a playoff series. By the time Corey Hart laced a clean single to right field in Game 1 at Citizens Bank Park, the Brewers already were trailing the Phillies by three runs.
"When you get your first hit in the fifth inning, it's not usually a good day," Hart said. "But we still fought and we were in position to tie it up at the end. They had a good day and we didn't. So we'll come out tomorrow and see what happens."
What happened in Game 1 of the NL Division Series was that Hamels was brilliant over eight scoreless innings. The lanky Phillies left-hander befuddled the power-hitting Brewers with changeups and slow curveballs. Hart was able to break through with his single on an 88-mph Hamels fastball.
"We couldn't put good at-bats together," Prince Fielder said. "It was a good effort, but we didn't get it completely done."
Behind Hamels' two hits allowed and nine strikeouts, and a shaky save by Brad Lidge, the Phillies took the series lead with a 3-1 victory.
In all, the Brewers generated 43 comeback victories in the regular season. In the final week of the season, they had their share of late-inning heroics. Fielder and Ryan Braun had walk-off home runs in the days leading up to Milwaukee capturing the Wild Card.
The home run has so often rescued the Brewers, as they finished fifth overall in the Major Leagues with 198.
On Wednesday, the Brewers struggled just to collect hits. They finished with four, including two off Lidge in the ninth. The lone Milwaukee run came on Braun's double in the ninth.
"Not too many times you can say you're happy to see a guy get out of the game and happy to see Lidge come in," Brewers manager Dale Sveum said. "I don't know if anybody said that or not. But it was kind of the way the game unfolded there. Obviously, we really didn't hit any balls hard off Hamels pretty much the whole day."
Craig Counsell hit a single in the sixth, which was the only frame where Hamels allowed more than one baserunner. Mike Cameron walked, putting runners on first and second. But Hamels struck out Bill Hall before Braun lifted a lazy pop that was caught by shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
"[Hamels] had a good changeup," Counsell said. "He threw a lot of changeups. He's got one of the best in the league. It's a good one. Even when you are sitting on it, it's tough to get. And he located it well. [Hamels is] a guy who's got a great pitch, and he locates it. It's going to be tough."
The Brewers are in the playoffs for the first time since 1982. A majority of the nucleus had never seen postseason action, which raised the question about jitters. Were there any?
"Not really. I think we were way more nervous this past week just to get here," Hart said. "That was like, 'Now, do or die.' We're not feeling any pressure. We'll come out tomorrow and get after them again."
One consolation the Brewers can take from an otherwise baffling afternoon was the fact that they threatened against Lidge in the ninth inning.
In the regular season, Lidge was a perfect 41-for-41 in save chances. The reliable closer certainly was tested on Wednesday, throwing 35 pitches, and allowing a run before he struck out Hart to end the game with runners on second and third.
Always mindful of Lidge's slider, Hart went down swinging against a 93-mph fastball.
"He has such a good slider that you've got to expect sliders," said Hart, who saw two sliders in his five-pitch at-bat. "He threw his fastball little more."
Hart fell behind in the count, 0-1, when a borderline first-pitch fastball was called a strike by home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth.
"That might have changed the at-bat," Hart said. "But you never know."
Two batters earlier, Fielder struck out in an eight-pitch showdown with Lidge that ended with him swinging at an outside fastball that may not have been a strike.
"I was just trying to see the ball and hit it," Fielder said.
Asked about the location of the pitch, he responded: "Way outer-half."
Was it a strike?
"I don't think so," he said. "I don't know what happened. I just swung and didn't make contact.
"We had a good chance. We put ourselves in a good situation. Unfortunately, it didn't go our way."
Being able to manufacture runs will be critical for the Brewers in the series, because they saw what quality starting pitching can do.
"[Hamels] was changing location and keeping the ball down," Fielder said. "He didn't make any mistakes."
Hamels' arm speed is the same on his changeup as it is on his fastball, making him especially deceptive.
While the Brewers will look to make adjustments, Fielder cautions that there is a risk to changing too much.
"You try to keep the same approach," he said. "Once you change your approach, that's not you. You've got to keep going out there and see what happens."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.