I don’t know how many more times the public will need to see Clayton Kershaw pitch terribly late in the postseason before they stop making him a big favorite every game, but I guess the answer to that question last night, was at least once more. Kershaw and the Dodgers were major road favorites in game one against a Milwaukee team that finished the regular season with the highest win total in the National League and have won twelve straight games, dating back nearly three weeks. Everyone was on L.A., so I jumped on the Brewers as big dogs and took a shot at a major payout.
In not at all shocking news, Kershaw pitched poorly yet again. The multi-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher lasted just three innings and was charged with five runs. His NLCS ERA coming into this game was 4.75, so it wasn’t all that hard to see coming. The Brewers jumped out to a 6-1 lead, and this looked like it was going to be an easy day at the ballpark for Milwaukee. But this is the playoffs, and teams never give up, and the Dodgers made their run.
The Dodgers managed to touch up the vaunted Brewers bullpen to the tune of three runs in the eighth inning to tighten things up. Then in the ninth, Chris Taylor blasted an RBI triple that bounced in and out of the glove of center fielder Lorenzo Cain and all the sudden we had a one-run game with a runner just ninety feet away from tying things up. Justin Turner came up with the chance to be a hero but struck out swinging, and the Brewers secured the win and took the series lead.
The two teams play it back again today with the Brewers looking to take a commanding two games to none lead in the series. Starting for the Dodgers is Hyun-jin Ryu (7-3 1.97 ERA), and for the Brewers, it is Wade Miley (5-2 2.57 ERA). The Dodgers are again road favorites at -128. The game total over-under is set at eight and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 1:09 PM PST from Miller Park in Milwaukee.
What if I told you Wade Miley has been one of the best pitchers in the National League in the second half of the year? Since the All-Star break, Miley has an ERA in the low two-run range and has been pitching his butt off. As unlikely as it may sound, Miley has been a big reason why this Brewers team is in the spot they are right now with a lead in the National League Championship Series.
What has been even more impressive for Miley has been the fact that the Brewers just don’t seem to lose much when he starts. The Brewers have won his last eight starts and on the season are 13-4 when Miley takes the mound. That includes a start against the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS where Miley shined as he pitched four and two-thirds of an inning and did not allow a run on just three hits. As is the case with all of their starters at this point, the Brewers aren’t looking for a lot of innings out of Miley tonight, but if he can get them four or five strong innings out of him, they will be in great shape.
The Dodgers will look to Hyun-jin Ryu to get back into this series. Ryu missed much of the year with an injury but has pitched well since his return. Ryu rejoined this Dodgers rotation in August, and down the stretch, he was lights out as he had an ERA of under two runs. He made one start in the Dodgers series against the Atlanta Braves and pitched great there too, throwing seven shutout innings while striking out eight.
There are two things that really stick out to me in this one. One, the fact that the Dodgers looked so out of it last night for the first several innings. They had four, count ‘em four, errors! All of those mishaps translated into runs and by the time that Dodgers got their heads straight, it was too late to make the comeback. Seeing mental errors like these are surprising out of a well-coached veteran team and to me, show a lack of focus.
Maybe the Dodgers started listening to their own hype and went into Milwaukee thinking they were going to walk right through them like they did against the Braves? They found out in a hurry that just isn’t going to be the case in this series. The Dodgers might take it in the end, but it isn’t going to be easy, and the brewers certainly won’t just lay down.
The second thing that sticks outs to me is the fact that the Brewers bullpen really struggled in game one. The Brewers have decided that they are going to ride the strength of their bullpen in this series, using the opener strategy laid out by the Tampa Bay Rays during the regular season. We saw this yesterday when Gio Gonzalez was pulled from the game after just two decent innings of work.
I like that approach for the Brewers as their bullpen is stronger than their starting rotation, but if that is going to work in this series, they are going to need a lot more out of the bullpen than they got last night. Josh Hader pitched great, but he was used much earlier than he usually is, and late in the game, the Brewers struggled to get outs. That gives me pause looking later into this series, as this Brewers bullpen got worked hard last night and will likely be worked hard all series long.
This is another number that is surprising to me. Even after the Dodgers showed us last night that they maybe aren’t as focused as they need to be, and lost game one with their best pitcher on the mound, they are once again road favorites tonight. Ryu has been great, you can’t deny that, but so has Miley. And in the playoffs, the home team is always going to be tough to beat.
I think this game is lower scoring than last night’s affair and both Ryu and Miley will pitch well. But I just can’t deny this Brewers team right now, not at home. It will be interesting to see how this series plays out once it shifts to Los Angeles, but for right now? I’m backing the Brewers! Give me the Milwaukee Brewers once again as home underdogs at +116 in game two!