Moyer treating this start like any other
Veteran lefty won't let talk of clinching NLDS affect approach
MILWAUKEE -- October games have tended to evade Jamie Moyer, a pitcher rather adept at throwing from April through September. For Moyer, it's been something of an unfortunate coincidence. Despite fair bits of success in his rare playoff appearances, the Phillies' left-hander is making just his fourth trip to the postseason in his 22-year Major League career.
Even by baseball's skewed statistical standards, that's not much.
So don't blame Moyer, one month shy of his 46th birthday, for relishing every piece of this latest October experience. His Phillies are up, 2-0, in a best-of-five National League Division Series with the NL Wild Card-winning Brewers, and Moyer is primed to start Game 3 in Milwaukee. Not a bad assignment at all.
Yet Moyer, whose businesslike demeanor smothers out any anxiousness, wouldn't even consider his opportunity to close out this series. Not as long as he's lounging in street clothes, far removed from the mound at Miller Field.
"Why put the cart before the horse?" Moyer said. "You've got to go out and pitch. You can't think about clinching a game before you start a game, and we'll see where that's going to go."
Moyer, for one, has gone plenty right this season, his finest since 2003 with the Mariners. His 16 wins led the team, and his 193 1/3 innings ranked second behind only Cole Hamels. More than anything, consistency has set Moyer apart. He produced a 3.71 ERA, allowing more than three runs in an outing only twice since June.
And he's done it, of course, without even sniffing 90 mph on the radar gun.
"We feel great about what Jamie's done all year," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "His entire career he's been a great pitcher, but this year especially for us he's really stepped it up. With what he can do, there's nobody else I'd want throwing Game 3 than Jamie Moyer. He's such a great veteran, such a great leader, it's really a benefit for us."
"He's the go-to guy," said Hamels, something of a go-to guy himself. "You can't count him out. Experience does add to everything, especially in big games."
Yet Moyer is not experienced in the postseason. He went a full decade in the Major Leagues without experiencing playoff baseball, lost one game with the Mariners in the 1997 ALDS, then endured another four years of October inactivity. Three starts in the 2001 postseason gave Moyer a better idea of what the playoffs were all about, but another five-year drought ensued. And at the time, there were no guarantees that Moyer, growing no younger, would make the postseason again.
Oldest Postseason Pitchers
|When Jamie Moyer takes the mound Saturday at Miller Park in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Brewers, he will become the second oldest pitcher to start a postseason game.|
|1. Jack Quinn||Athletics/1929 WS||46 years,||103 days|
|2. Jamie Moyer||Phillies/2008 NLDS||45 years,||321 days|
|3. Roger Clemens||Yankees/2007 ALDS||45 years,||64 days|
|4. Jamie Moyer||Phillies/2007 NLDS||44 years,||322 days|
|5. Phil Niekro||Braves/1982 NLCS||43 years,||191 days|
|6. David Wells||Padres/2006 NLDS||43 years,||138 days|
|7. Roger Clemens||Astros/2005 WS||43 years,||79 days|
|8. Roger Clemens||Astros/2005 NLCS||43 years,||72 days|
|9. Roger Clemens||Astros/2005 NLDS||43 years,||63 days|
|10. Randy Johnson||Yankees/2006 ALDS||43 years,||26 days|
His hope was short-lived. By the time Moyer took the mound in Game 3, the Rockies had already dumped his Phillies into a 2-0 series hole. Moyer's job was to protect -- and he did so admirably, allowing just one run in six innings. But it wasn't enough. The offense stayed quiet, the Phillies floundered, and Moyer was left with yet another bitter October taste.
It's something that, even while he prepares to become the second-oldest starting pitcher in postseason history, he can't help but keep planted in the recesses of his mind.
"A lot of things can happen," Moyer said, ignoring the fact that no National League team has ever come back from a two-game Division Series hole. "Being around this game as long as I've been, you see a lot of different things happen. So until you can establish as a pitcher what you're going to bring to the game, you have to try to establish a tempo and just go from there."
He's found his tempo more often than not this season, and so pitching against the homer-happy Brewers shouldn't do much to hurt his chances -- indeed, he admitted that facing a team of free swingers can play to his advantage. In two starts against Milwaukee this season, Moyer finished 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA. The better of the two came at Miller Park, and that might not be much of a coincidence. In 17 starts on the road this season, Moyer was 10-3 with a 2.92 ERA, compared with a 6-4 record and 4.61 ERA at home.
Seems his knowledge of opposing hitters doesn't slump in unfamiliar surroundings.
"He's obviously very crafty or he still wouldn't be having success at 45 years old," Brewers manager Dale Sveum said. "He knows what to do with the baseball. Even the velocity is not ... hitting speed is what we call it. He's below hitting speed. So you've got to be patient. You can't try and pull the guy."
The Phillies know all that, of course, but they're not the ones who have to hit him. That unenviable task falls to the Brewers.
Jamie Moyer's Career Playoff Appearances
Chances are that Werth might be right, giving Moyer a fine opportunity on Saturday to earn his first postseason victory since 2001. Doing so would ensure the Phillies a date in the NL Championship Series next week, though Moyer refuses to let his thoughts drift to such significance.
"I honestly try not to think of any situation that I'm in, whether it's Spring Training, regular season or postseason as any different type of a game," Moyer said. "It's still a baseball game. Obviously, we're on a bigger stage and it is the playoffs, and I'm not trying to downplay that -- but it's still the same game. I still have to pitch."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.