Ryan Braun

Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

You need a lot to break right to win a championship in any sport but particularly in baseball, where we routinely see the best team fail to win it all. It doesn't matter how you've performed in the preceding six months and 162 games, any team is susceptible to a bad week in October.

The 2008 Phillies were not the favorite to win the World Series when that postseason began. They had won 92 games with a prolific offense. The Cubs won 97, and in the AL, the Red Sox, Rays and Angels all won 95-plus.

The teams with the two best records in baseball that year (Angels at 100-62, Cubs at 97-64), were dispatched quickly in the playoffs, with the Cubs suffering a sweep to the Dodgers in the NLDS and the Angels going down in four games to the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Who knows how much differently the 2008 playoffs would have gone for the Phillies if they drew the Cubs or Dodgers in the NLDS, or the Red Sox instead of the Rays in the World Series. It obviously doesn't matter because reality > hypotheticals, but that 2008 postseason was a good example of timing being everything.

The 2008 Phillies were a better team than the 2008 Brewers, but they also had two huge benefits in that series beyond home-field advantage. Those benefits were the Brewers' top two starting pitchers.

CC Sabathia was the blockbuster trade acquisition in '08. The Brewers acquired him on July 7, three weeks before the deadline, and he dominated for more than two months. In 17 starts with Milwaukee, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Ridiculously, he pitched seven complete games with three shutouts in those 17 starts.

But by the time the postseason began, Sabathia was spent. His start against the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLDS was his fifth straight start on short rest. Four days earlier, Sabathia had thrown 122 pitches in a complete game.

It was clear pretty early in that game that Sabathia was not the pitcher he was down the stretch, and Phillies fans will never forget the second inning. (We will explore the famous nine-pitch Brett Myers walk and Shane Victorino grand slam in more depth Tuesday.)

The other advantage the Phillies had was that the Brewers' rock that year, Ben Sheets, found out at the end of the regular season that he needed Tommy John surgery and would be unable to pitch in the playoffs. Sheets, who had a 3.24 ERA in 128 starts from 2004-08 and was a four-time All-Star, never ended up making a postseason start. 

Had he been healthy, Sheets would have started Game 1 for the Brewers ahead of Sabathia. Instead, that Game 1 start went to Yovani Gallardo, who had torn his ACL on May 1 and was unable to return until the final week of the regular season. 

Gallardo went on to have a decent 12-year career but he wasn't ready for that big moment in enemy territory in '08. The Phillies scored three runs off of him (unearned because of a Rickie Weeks error), and that was plenty of run support for Cole Hamels.

The Phillies clearly benefitted from the Brewers' starting pitching situation that October, but that doesn't discredit the business they took care of. In the NLDS, Prince Fielder went 1 for 14 (.071). Ryan Braun, who would go on to become a career Phillie-killer, had just an OK series, reaching base in five of 17 plate appearances and going hitless with runners in scoring position until his final at-bat of the series, an RBI single with the Phillies up five runs in their Game 4 clincher.

The Brewers hit just .206/.271/.254 as a team in that series with one home run against the Phils.

The re-airs of the Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run begin tonight on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The NLDS runs this week from Monday-Thursday, followed by the NLCS next week and the World Series the week after.

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Phillies 6, Brewers 4: Vince Velasquez leads big effort by the bullpen

Phillies 6, Brewers 4: Vince Velasquez leads big effort by the bullpen

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MILWAUKEE — The Phillies' hard-working bullpen delivered six shutout innings Friday night to help the team win the opener of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-4, at Miller Park.

The Phils' bullpen has picked up 47 1/3 innings in the last 12 games.

Vince Velasquez made his first appearance of the season out of the bullpen and delivered two scoreless innings. Edgar Garcia, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris (three K's) picked up the rest of the relief innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff failed to make it past the third inning.

Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins had big hits to put the Phils over the top.

The Phils are 3-2 on this seven-game trip. They are 30-21 overall.

The keys

• Harper tied the game with a double in the fifth, McCutchen put the Phils up by a run with a double in the sixth and Hoskins' ended a 15-game home run drought with an important one in the seventh.

• Velasquez entered a tie game in the fifth. He allowed a walk and a hit to the first two batters he faced then struck out four of the next five to finish with two scoreless frames. His shutdown work and the Phils' offense earned him the win.

• J.T Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura hooked up for a big defensive play to end the fifth inning. The Brewers tried to execute a double steal and the catcher and shortstop both delivered perfect throws to cut the run and keep the game tied. The Phils took the lead in the next inning.

Eickhoff's night

Eickhoff gave up five hits, a walk and four runs over three innings. Four of the hits were for extra bases and two of them were homers. He has given up seven homers in his last three starts after giving up none in his first four.

Eickhoff had some bad luck in the first inning as Ryan Braun reached on a swinging bunt with two outs. Mike Moustakas then hopped on a curveball and stroked it for an RBI double.

Eickhoff gave up three damaging hits on fastballs, none of which were above 91 mph. Orlando Arcia hit one for a solo homer in the second. Christian Yelich hit a 3-2 fastball for his 20th homer in the third and Yasmani Grandal clubbed a 2-2 fastball for an RBI double after a two-out walk in the third.

Over his last three starts, Eickhoff has been tagged for 17 hits and 13 runs in 12 innings.

What's up with Pat?

Pat Neshek did not appear happy as he left the field after working out with the rest of the relievers late in the afternoon. He clearly was not available to pitch as he did not even report to the bullpen for the game. It's not immediately clear what the issue was.

(Update: Neshek has a sore shoulder and is headed back to Philadelphia, manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. He will go on the 10-day injured list.)

Transaction

Velasquez was activated from the IL and assigned to the bullpen, at least for the next few days. He or Nick Pivetta will start Tuesday. All the details here.

Health check

Roman Quinn has recovered from his groin strain. He is doing all baseball drills and working toward starting a minor-league rehabilitation assignment late next week, according to Kapler.

Up next

Jake Arrieta (4-4, 3.77) opposes Jhoulys Chacin (3-5, 4.65) on Saturday afternoon.

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Brewers 11, Phillies 3: Brewers slug out another win, prove Phillies still have a lot of work to do

Brewers 11, Phillies 3: Brewers slug out another win, prove Phillies still have a lot of work to do

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The Phillies' rearranged top of the order produced early runs but not nearly enough of them against a Brewers lineup that came to town in a bit of a funk before teeing off at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils dropped this one Thursday, 11-3, and lost the final three games of the series after winning Monday's opener. They were outscored 22-6 in those three games.

Jean Segura, batting third, homered for a second straight game and drove in another run on a groundout. Bryce Harper, batting second for the first time as a Phillie, went 1 for 4 and scored a run.

But Milwaukee's offense was again too much, this time with the bottom of the order creating unexpected runs and another three-run homer from Yasmani Grandal, who seemed to come up with two men on in every at-bat this week.

The Phillies are 24-19 and 8-4-2 in their 14 series. They have a two-game lead over Atlanta heading into tonight's Braves-Cardinals game.

The Phils are 21-1 when they lead after six innings this season and 0-15 when they trail after six.

Up-and-down day for Eflin

Zach Eflin allowed four runs in five innings but was a bit more effective than that, with defense playing a role in two different run-scoring innings.

The first-inning home run Eflin allowed to Christian Yelich was on him — it was crushed to the bullpen in right-center.

In the third, opposing pitcher Zach Davies led off with a double and moved to third when Cesar Hernandez made the wrong decision on a groundball to second base. Hernandez aggressively went after the lead runner at third but Davies was safe, putting runners on the corners with nobody out and the heart of Milwaukee's order due up. Eflin popped Yelich up and was able to escape by allowing just one run.

An inning later with a man on third, Eflin's spikes appeared to get caught in the grass as he tried to field a bunt from Davies. It resulted in another run and Davies was safe at first.

As good as Eflin has been this season, he's allowed a league-high five hits to opposing pitchers, who are 5 for 14 with two doubles and a home run.

Eflin struck out seven and kept the Phillies in the game by escaping a few jams. In total, Phillies starting pitchers allowed 16 earned runs in 18 innings in the series.

Through nine starts, Eflin is 5-4 with a 2.91 ERA. His next start will be Tuesday at Wrigley Field against lefty Jose Quintana.

Another dominant series for Braun

No visiting player has ever done the kind of damage at Citizens Bank Park that Ryan Braun has, and it's remained that way even as he's declined. Braun has hit .261 overall the last three seasons but continues to pound the baseball every time he visits South Philadelphia.

Braun had two more hits Thursday afternoon and has 63 in 38 career games at CBP, where he's hit .420. In the series this week, he went 7 for 13 with a home run, four RBI and six runs scored. He reached base in 10 of 16 plate appearances.

The Brewers came to town with only one player, Yelich, clicking at the plate. They left with Lorenzo Cain, Braun and Grandal all heating up.

Kingery update

Scott Kingery had his rehab assignment transferred on Thursday from Class A Lakewood to Double A Reading, where the plan was for him to play nine innings at second base Thursday, then see time at third base and center field on Friday.

It looks as though Kingery could be recalled by the Phillies Saturday or Sunday. He will have missed nearly a month of big-league time after straining his hamstring on April 19.

Up next

In come the Rockies for a three-game series.

Friday night at 7:05 — Cole Irvin (1-0, 1.29) vs. Jon Gray (3-4, 4.25)

Saturday afternoon at 4:05 — Aaron Nola (3-0, 4.86) vs. Antonio Senzatela (3-2, 5.35)

Sunday afternoon at 1:05 — Jerad Eickhoff (2-2, 2.65) vs. LHP Kyle Freeland (2-5, 5.68)

While Coors Field has been a major challenge for the Phillies in recent years, they've played the Rockies well at home. The Phils are 16-10 against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park dating back to 2012 and 6-4 in their last 10 meetings here.

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