Myers rested, confident before Game 2
Opposing Brewers ace, Phillies righty over past struggles
PHILADELPHIA -- Ignore, for a moment, CC Sabathia's almost preternatural ability to pitch successfully on three days' rest, and it becomes easier to understand the difficulty of that trick. Just take Brett Myers, who gave the Phillies a Sabathia-like performance on short rest half a month ago, before descending into mediocrity over his final two starts of the season.
That much wasn't coincidence. It was fatigue. Myers, perhaps still recovering from the two-hitter he pitched on three days' rest, watched his arm angle degenerate until his pitches lost their bite.
"The angle," Myers said, "was back."
And it came at a perfect time. The Phillies won Game 1 on Wednesday afternoon, giving Myers an opportunity to put his team in an enviable position. If he can outduel Sabathia, his Phillies will take a take a rather formidable two-game lead heading into Milwaukee this weekend.
"We're down one game right now with the best pitcher in baseball pitching tomorrow," Brewers manager Dale Sveum said. "So obviously, we feel good about ourselves, but we've got to swing the bats better and score more than one run."
There's no telling whether Milwaukee will be able to do it against someone who has been an ace at times this season, a Minor Leaguer at others, and rarely anything in between. Coming off a successful season as the Phillies' closer, Myers lost that role when the Phils acquired Brad Lidge, then endured a brutal first half -- before dropping all the way down to Class A ball in order to rediscover what made him successful in the first place.
He made four starts, three of them losses, then returned to the Phillies. And suddenly, Myers was dominant again, despite an insistence that he didn't really change.
"I'm still 6-4," he joked, looking slightly taller in his bright red cap. "Maybe my weight has fluctuated."
Certainly, his value has, if nothing else. Which is why Myers, despite his early and recent struggles, became Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's clear choice to start Game 2 -- aided by Manuel's desire to split his two lefties, Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, in the rotation.
Myers even boasts some brief playoff experience as a reliever, firing 1 1/3 shutout innings in last year's NLDS against the Rockies. He never pitched in a particularly tight situation, because the Phillies held only one short-lived lead all series. But Myers did gain a rather acute understanding of what pitching in the playoffs might entail.
"Last year, I didn't have that opportunity to go out there and try to actually take control of a game, because I was in the back end of the bullpen," he said. "So this year is going to be a little bit different. They're going to rely a lot on me to give us some good solid innings, go deep in the game and get the ball to Lidge."
He also has earned a measure of respect from the opposing dugout. That two-hitter Myers pitched on short rest? It came against the Brewers. And even Sabathia, his Game 2 opponent, couldn't help but be impressed by Myers' ability to successfully transition from starter to closer and back.
"Being a starter and going to closing, throwing every day as opposed to throwing a fifth day as a starter, I guess it would be hard and take a toll on you," Sabathia said. "[That's] just a tribute to how good he is and how good a pitcher he is, to be versatile like that to go back and forth."
Sabathia, opposing Myers on short rest (of course), might need to continue his dominance in order to beat the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Though Brewers outfielder Mike Cameron has hit two career home runs off Myers, he also has produced a .231 average. And only Bill Hall and Ray Durham, each batting .250, have mustered higher marks. The rest of the active Brewers hitters have hit .111 against him in 44 combined at-bats.
Yet there's still a dual respect there, with Myers quite aware of how dangerous the Brewers can be. They ranked third in the NL in home runs for a reason, and they'll be playing at Citizens Bank Park where, despite Myers' 3.01 ERA there this season, balls have a tendency to fly over fences.
"They're all good hitters," Myers said of the Brewers. "They're all good young hitters, too. So you have to pick your poison who you want to face in certain situations."
Certainly, he might have picked a different opponent than Sabathia, the talk of baseball and the dominating figure of Thursday's Game 2, placed in a must-win situation for yet another game. But Myers can't change that, just as he can't change all the previous ups and downs of his season. Nor does he plan to try.
"I struggled, but now's the time to put that all behind me," Myers said. "It's in the past. It's a new season now. It's time to start over."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.