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Despite stinging loss to Phillies, team must focus on hitting in Game 2

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Gary D'Amato
October 1, 2008
— Talk about not getting any respect. The Milwaukee Brewers woke up Wednesday morning to a headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer that read, "Now starting for the Brewers . . . who?"

The piece was accompanied by a "Where's Gallardo?" pick-the-pitcher graphic with head shots of Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and the musician Yanni.


Very cute.


Then, in the sixth inning of Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park, the Philadelphia Phillies staged a mock sausage race, a not-so-subtle jab at the Miller Park fan favorite, complete with one "hot dog" getting whacked by a Randall Simon look-alike and another being tackled by the Phillie Phanatic.


Well, J.J. Hardy-har-har.


Looks like the Brewers, who were swept by the Phillies in mid-September in a wretched four-game series that preceded the firing of manager Ned Yost, are going to have to earn some respect around here.


They didn't exactly take a step in the right direction on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, going down quietly to a 12-strikeout, 3-1 defeat and falling into a 1-0 hole in the best-of-five series.


Infielder Craig Counsell shrugged off a suggestion that the Brewers were being taken lightly in the City of Brotherly Love.


''You come to the East Coast, that's their style," he said. "I don't think anybody in here is aware of that, to be honest with you. We always take that stuff and brush it off, really, and sometimes even laugh at it."


If the Cheesesteaks are taking the Cheeseheads for granted, who can blame them? Philly, after all, was the scene of fourth-and-26 (ooh, cheap shot) and Glenn Robinson's point-blank miss in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.


Here's how it works: You're from Wisconsin, you come to Philadelphia, you lose.


Even Brewers fans aren't being taken seriously. David Gilewski of Milwaukee and two buddies, who paid $175 each for tickets to the game, had people scratching their heads when they walked around downtown Philly dressed in Brewers garb.


''They're actually more surprised that we're here than anything," Gilewski said. "We'll be walking down the street and people will see us and say, 'Really? Brewers fans?' That's how it's been everywhere."


Maybe things will change today when 6-foot-7, 311-pound CC Sabathia takes the mound for the Brewers in Game 2. He'll be pitching on three days' rest for the fourth time but has strapped the franchise to his broad shoulders and has gone 11-2 since the mid-season trade that brought him to Milwaukee.


''This team was good before I got here and I was just trying to do whatever I could to add to that," Sabathia said. "I want to win a championship. And I think that's what everybody's ultimate goal is."


If the Brewers are going to win this championship, or even this series, they're going to have to start connecting with more than air molecules with their bats.


On Wednesday, lightning flashed around Citizens Bank Park but there was no thunder in the visiting team's lumber.


The Brewers managed just two measly hits in eight innings off Phillies starter Cole Hamels and their too-little, too-late rally against closer Brad Lidge ended with Corey Hart striking out, stranding runners on second and third.


''Obviously, we really didn't hit any balls hard off Hamels, really the whole day," said interim manager Dale Sveum.


The Brewers won six of their last seven games of the regular season thanks in large part to monumental walk-off home runs by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder and Braun's historic game-winner in the finale.


But the homers masked some deficiencies. The Brewers batted only .227 as a team in September, the lowest in the major leagues by 10 percentage points, and they finished 29th in runs scored. Typically, they have struggled early in games, fallen behind and rallied.


''It's kind of been our M.O. lately," Counsell said. "It's how we've been operating. We don't want to struggle for six innings and depend on rallies. It's so much easier to play these things when you have the lead."


Gallardo, 22, was making just his second start since May 1, when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a play at first base. He deserved a better fate, but the Brewers kicked the ball around in the third inning and all three runs he allowed were unearned.


''Yeah, obviously, one little hiccup there," Sveum said in the biggest understatement of his brief tenure as manager.


It's up to Sabathia to get this thing turned around today. But the rest of the Brewers can't stand around and watch the big fella work.


''He's at times carried us," Counsell said. "It's important that we support him as far as scoring runs and making plays for him."


With all due respect, better late than never.



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