Jae Hong/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Dodgers are within one victory of returning to the World Series.
Thanks in no small part to seven innings of one-run, nine-strikeout ball from Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers claimed their first advantage of the National League Championship Series with a 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
The Brewers head home with their 2018 season at stake and their hopes relying on an unlikely Game 6 starter—Wade Miley, the same pitcher on the hill at the start of Game 5. After Miley walked Cody Bellinger to open the bottom of the first, Brewers skipper Craig Counsell trotted out, signaled to the bullpen and made a pitching change.
As The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported, the rapid hook on Miley was scripted, as is his upcoming start:
Miley will now be the first pitcher in almost 90 years to start consecutive games in a playoff series:
Stats By STATS @StatsBySTATS
The last pitcher to start back-to-back team games in the same #postseason series was George Earnshaw in the 1930 World Series.
After tossing 7 shutout innings in Game 5, Earnshaw pitched a complete game two days later, allowing one run to win Game 6 and the series. https://t.co/KCuX9U0z2t
Interesting strategizing aside, the Brewers are now backed against the ropes with a struggling offense (three runs in the past two games) and zero margin for error.
2018 NLCS Remaining Schedule
Game 6: Dodgers at Brewers; Friday, Oct. 19 at 8:39 p.m. ET on FS1 (Live Stream: Fox Sports GO)
*Game 7: Dodgers at Brewers; Saturday, Oct. 20 at 9:09 p.m. ET on FS1 (Live Stream: Fox Sports GO)
Updated World Series Odds (per OddsShark)
Los Angeles Dodgers: 11-4
Milwaukee Brewers: 93-20
The Dodgers have now gone three games without a home run, which might not be notable for some teams but does stand out for the one that paced the NL (and ranked second overall) with 235 blasts. Finding ways to win without the long ball—seven singles, two doubles and three stolen bases in Game 5—could prove invaluable if their power outage continues.
“It just shows you’ve got to grind ’em out to win a game,” Joc Pederson said. “We did a lot of things well and we came up with the hits today that we haven’t in the past.”
Hit it where they ain’t.
Max Muncy gives the @Dodgers the lead. #NLCS https://t.co/O79ls3Cwrq
L.A. had been scuffling a bit of late.
It totaled just two runs over Games 3 and 4, its lowest two-game output since the first week of August. Considering Milwaukee didn’t utilize its best bullpen arms in Game 5—Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress—and has its rotation ERA leader on the bump for Game 6, the Dodgers can only hope either their timely hitting continues or their balls get back to leaving the yard.
The Brewers, meanwhile, are counting on their best bats to come alive before it’s too late. NL MVP favorite Christian Yelich has three hits—none for extra bases—in this series. Lorenzo Cain went hitless in Games 3 and 4. Mike Moustakas is 2-for-21 this round. Jesus Aguilar hasn’t had a multi-hit game in these playoffs.
“I’m just not getting it done,” Yelich said. “I’m having opportunities, getting pitches to hit. I’m just missing them. I’m not executing. I’ve got to figure it out.”
Harry How/Getty Images
Based on what we’ve seen this season, one might assume it’s only a matter of time before the Dodgers start blasting off again. A trip to Miller Park might be exactly what the hitting doctors have ordered.
So, can Miley and Milwaukee relievers prevent that onslaught from ever coming? Can a potent-in-its-own-right Brewers lineup—fourth overall in home runs—provide enough fireworks to take the pressure off the pitchers?
We’ll get those answers soon enough.
What we know right now is the Brewers aren’t in a great place, but they’re far from being dead in the water.
As JR Radcliffe wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, teams trailing 3-2 in a best-of-seven league championship series or World Series have won just 10 of the 39 series (25.6 percent) in the wild-card era. But the success rate jumps considerably when those teams are on their home field (eight out of 19, 42.1 percent).
These are all just numbers, of course, and mean nothing for what lies ahead. But for any antsy fans of the Brew Crew, there might be some slight reassurance in knowing that multiple teams have escaped this same situation before.
That said, history remains on the Dodgers’ side—and so does the stat sheet. They scored more runs (804 to 754), pitched to a lower ERA (3.38 to 3.73) and posted a far superior run-differential (plus-194 to plus-95) in the regular season.
This is probably L.A.’s series to lose. But it’s also October baseball, so anything can happen.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of ESPN.com and Baseball-Reference.com.