What a great series we have had here in the National League Championship Series. Unlike the American League Championship Series that was devoid of too much drama as the Boston Red Sox won four straight games after dropping game one at home, this series has been action packed! Both teams have won in the other team’s ballpark, and here we are at game six with the Dodgers having the chance to clinch the series tonight in Milwaukee.
In my game five write up, I mentioned that for some reason I thought Clayton Kershaw would exercise his playoff demons and step up for his team in a must-win situation. All the data on Kershaw in the playoffs, specifically late in the playoffs, pointed to Kershaw struggling, but my gut said this guy was going to get the job done. And that is just what happened.
Kershaw threw seven innings of strong ball, allowing just one run on only three hits while striking out nine. If the Dodgers are able to win and advance to back to back World Series, having a healthy Clayton Kershaw pitching at his best is going to be a huge advantage for the boys in blue. Especially if you look at how Boston’s ace, Chris Sale, has been sick and not able to pitch. A prime Kershaw matched up against anybody besides Sale is a big mismatch for Boston.
But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself as we still have games to play in this series and these Brewers aren’t going to go away without a fight. The Brewers used some trickery in game five as they listed Wade Miley, a lefty, as the starting pitcher, but then immediately pulled him from the game after one batter to instead use Brandon Woodruff, a righty, to actually start the game. This gamble looked like it might pay off as Woodruff was solid through the first several innings and the had the lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning and were tied heading into the sixth before Woodruff gave up a couple of runs in the sixth that gave the Dodgers the lead for good.
The Brewers will go with Miley on the mound again tonight, and presumably this time he will actually pitch, which should be a good thing for Milwaukee as he has been one of the most reliable starters all season long for the Brewers and has been untouchable in the playoffs so far. The Dodgers will counter with Hyun-Jin Ryu tonight to try and close the series out. The Dodgers are slight -108 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 5:39 PM PST from Miller Park in Milwaukee.
I was shocked to see the Brewers pull Miley from game five. I can see what they were doing, trying to mess with the Dodgers righty-lefty matchups, but with as good as Miley has been I am not sure he is the decoy they should have used. I would have preferred they used Woodruff as the decoy and Miley as the real starter. Miley has just been too good recently to not give him a shot in a game the Brewers really needed to win.
The Brewers won the last seven games of the regular season where Miley started, and in the playoffs, the guy hasn’t given up a run yet in ten and two-thirds innings pitched. In game two of this series against Los Angeles, Miley threw five and two-thirds shutout innings and allowed just two hits. The Brewers have been quick to go to their bullpen in this series, but I expect them to give Miley at least four or five innings in this one as he is likely the best arm on the squad at this point.
The Dodgers will hope that Hyun-jin Ryu will perform better than he did in game two of this series where he lasted just four and a third innings and gave up two earned runs. It wasn’t that Ryu was all that bad, he just wasn’t nearly as sharp as he was coming into that game. In Ryu’s four previous starts before game two, he pitched a combined twenty-six innings and allowed just one earned run.
The combined game scores through five games for this series? Milwaukee 16 runs, Los Angeles 16 runs. Every game in this series has been tight and has come down to the wire, and I expect more of the same tonight. So, where do I find my value in a series that has been so tightly contested?
The pitching staffs. The Brewers strategy of basically abandoning their starting pitching rotation and using mostly bullpen arms was a major gamble, and after three games in three days in LA, they are glad to have gotten a day off yesterday. I think that Miley will be good again, and if he is not, the Brewers have a finally refreshed bullpen they can call on that has been mostly great in this series after a rough game one.
Ryu will likely match Miley pitch for pitch, and I can see this game being close late into the night much as games four and five were. And when you have close games that could go either way at basically even money, I love to back the home team. Getting that last at-bat is such a big advantage and, in a series, where both teams are worn down after a long, intense series of games, that hometown crowd is going to help get Milwaukee over the hump. I see another close game with the Milwaukee Brewers finding a way to win tonight at home and force a game seven. Give me the Milwaukee Brewers as small home underdogs in this one at -102!