Two big questions I've been bombarded with:
What's the deal with the playoff roster?
Who's going to pitch?
Here are the answers as best I have them right now:
1) Playoff roster: The Phillies don't have to finalize their playoff roster until 10 a.m. on Wednesday, but manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday the squad was essentially set. There isn't a whole lot of intrigue. The two biggest questions involve a couple of September call-ups. First, are the Phillies considering keeping speedy outfield prospect Greg Golson over veteran So Taguchi? Second, will they keep lefthander J.A. Happ around in case Brett Myers, who has struggled his past two outings, or any other starter gets knocked out of the game early? This is purely an educated guess, but I'm going to say no on both counts. As much as Taguchi has struggled this season, he is a veteran, professional hitter who is much more capable of putting together a quality late-game at-bat than Golson is. Sure, Golson's speed for a crucial late-game situation where stealing a base is an absolute necessity would be great to had, but you have to factor in the odds of needing that speed versus the odds of needing a right-handed bat late in a game. I like Golson a lot, but anybody who has watched his at-bats this year knows he just isn't ready to hit major league pitching: he's 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in six plate appearances. I'm not saying the Phillies SHOULD leave him off - Frankly, I'm not sure what I would do - but I think this is what they are probably thinking. And I think yesterday's game, when So Taguchi went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and Golson appeared to mis-play a ball in center field, will be in their minds.
Now, Happ's situation is somewhat different in that he has given the Phillies a good taste of what he can accomplish at the major league level. But the result could be the same as Golson: while it would be a nice luxury to have him on the roster, there simply might not be room. From my vantage point, there are two ways they could work Happ into the 25 is: leave one of their front-of-the-bullpen relievers, Clay Condrey or Rudy Seanez, at home, or go with only five bench players. I just don't see either one happening. Happ isn't a reliever, which he has proven this season. And everybody remembers what happened last year in the playoffs when the Phils used a starter in relief (Kyle Lohse, Rockies home run, end of ballgame). Seanez has been solid since returning from the disabled list in August - he's allowed four runs in 10 2/3 innings since - and Condrey has a 2.73 ERA in 26 appearances since the All-Star Break.
2) Pitching match-ups: Neither team has announced their pitching rotation for the playoffs. There probably isn't much benefit in doing so before the last possible moment. Why let the other guy factor your rotation into his? All we know from the Phillies' stand-point is that Cole Hamels will be pitching on Wednesday. More on Hamels later. We can use a little deductive reasoning to pare down the options the Brewers have for Game One. C.C. Sabathia is out for Wednesday. I'd guess that the Brewers would throw him Thursday in Game Two. It would be his fourth straight start on three days rest, but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down (complete game Sunday). If the Brewers start him Thursday, he'd be available for a potential Game Five on normal rest. So who will start Game One? High Cheese is predicting it will be Jeff Suppan, who is essentially a younger, right-handed, poor-man's version of Jamie Moyer. OK, so that makes him nothing like Jamie Moyer. But the 33-year-old has been around awhile -- 14 seasons -- and has started nine postseason games in his career, going 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA. The Phillies shelled him in Game Two of their Doubleheader against the Brewers a couple weeks ago, scoring six runs in 3 2/3 innings. But he pitched well against them in April, allowing one run in seven innings. Most of the Phillies have decent career numbers off Suppan, including Pat Burrell, who has hit three home runs off of him.
Another option is Dave Bush, who pitched three innings in relief on Saturday. Bush has a 3.33 ERA in his last five appearances. Opponents are hitting just .198 against him during that time. Against the Phillies on Sept. 14, he allowed three runs on five hits in six innings of a 7-3 Phillies win. Earlier this season in Milwaukee he allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings of a 5-4 Brewers win. Lefthander Manny Parra could be an option if the Brewers want to throw lefties at the Phillies, but keep in mind the Phils knocked him out of the game after 1 1/3 innings the last time they faced him.
Here's our prediction for the match-ups:
Wednesday (Game 1, 3 p.m.) - LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Jeff Suppan
Thursday (Game 2, 6 p.m.) - RHP Brett Myers vs. LHP C.C. Sabathia
Saturday (Game 3, 6:30 p.m.) - LHP Jamie Moyer at RHP Yovani Gallardo
Sunday (Game 4*, TBA) - RHP Joe Blanton at RHP Dave Bush
Tuesday (Game 5*, TBA) - LHP Cole Hamels vs. LHP C.C. Sabathia
Myers would be on seven days rest on Thursday, Moyer would be on six days rest on Saturday. Again, this is just a premature guesstimation. I'm pretty confident the Phillies will go Hamels-Myers-Moyer-Blanton. The Brewers, however, could go any of a number of ways.
3) Gavin vs. Garcia: Speaking of pitching match-ups, we here at High Cheese couldn't help but notice the two starters scheduled for tonight's important (if you are a White Sock) game between Chicago and Detroit. Yep, it's Freddy Garcia vs. Gavin Floyd. I'm probably rehashing a story you just don't want to hear again, but last season the Phillies acquired Garcia in exchange for Floyd. Now, one can keep the other from going to the playoffs.