MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers grabbed an early 5-run lead and then had to hold on for a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.
Here’s what we saw Friday night:
Brandon Woodruff: MVP
We’re only half joking on that MVP thing, but the righty has been huge for Milwaukee in the postseason. He pitched three scoreless innings in Game 1 of the NLDS and then topped that effort in Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday. After throwing a perfect third inning in relief, Woodruff took Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw deep for a solo home run to tie the game 1-1.
“We saw he actually [had a] little bit of power, not a bad swing,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said of their scouting report for a guy that had all of 22 plate appearances the last two seasons. “But to see the ball go out of the ballpark against Clayton, obviously, that was a surprise to all of us.”
It was the second home run of the year for Woodruff and it came with two strikes. The 25-year-old joked that he was just trying to put the ball in play or foul something off. Instead, as he said, he “just got lucky.” Luck or not, almost everyone pointed to it as the turning point in the game.
“Woody is a good hitter and that’s part of his game,” Counsell said. “It definitely changed the vibe for sure.”
The normally mild-mannered Woodruff said he watched the ball go over the fence and kind of just lost it — but it a good way.
“Obviously, coming into the day, you don’t know in your wildest dreams that that’s going to happen — to be able to get an at-bat [against] Kershaw and hit a home run,” Woodruff said. “I rounded first, and once I knew it was gone, it was just one of those kind of moments where you’re not really thinking.”
It wasn’t a cheap one, either. The ball went 406-feet, an absolute bomb for a guy that has rarely gotten to hit this year. That added to the excitement for Woodruff and one of his teammates paid for it when he crossed the plate.
“He was fired up coming around home,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “He almost broke my arm. If you look at the replay, it was a pretty strong high five.”
Just for good measure, Woodruff came out and threw another scoreless inning in the fourth and ended up getting the win.
Clayton Kershaw got 24 outs on 85 pitches against Atlanta in his lone start in the NLDS. On Friday, he threw 74 pitches and managed just nine outs before being pulled in the fourth inning.
“I just think it was poor execution,” Roberts said of Kershaw’s night. “And I thought the stuff was good, but he just made mistakes in the strike zone and defensively, again, we didn’t do him any favors.”
They didn’t. Los Angeles committed four errors, including a couple that helped Milwaukee pad its lead. Still, the Brewers were all over Kershaw and the three innings pitched were the fewest in his postseason career. He was tagged with five of the runs, including four that were earned.
Obviously, it’s significant step for Milwaukee to not only win Game 1, but to do it by beating the best Los Angeles had to offer can’t be understated. It’s possible the Brewers will have to face Kershaw again down the road and they may not mind it the way they hit him on Friday.
Seeing Josh Hader warmup in the fourth inning was not something most were expecting, but that’s exactly what a sellout crowd at Miller Park saw on Friday night.
Following a pair of innings from Gio Gonzalez and Woodruff, Counsell brought on his best reliever and did so with a 5-1 lead. And it wasn’t a short outing for Hader. He pitched three scoreless innings and needed a season-high 46 pitches to get it done. But when he exited in the seventh, Milwaukee had a 6-1 lead.
“I threw Josh out there [for a third inning] because he was throwing the ball really well,” Counsell said of the three-inning effort for Hader, just the second time this season he’s gone that long. “I thought once he had two innings he was down for tomorrow anyway, [so why not].”
Roberts viewed it differently and indicated, certainly unintentionally, what has become apparent to those that have watched the Brewers in the last three or four weeks — Counsell is going for it and not necessarily worrying about what may happen tomorrow or later in the series.
“They were selling out, obviously, with Josh going three innings tonight against us,” Roberts said.
Hader won’t be available for Game 2, but Counsell is expecting to have him for Game 3 in Los Angeles on Monday.
Cause for concern?
Milwaukee was rolling, up 6-1 heading to the eighth inning when the back of the bullpen veered off course. The trio of Xavier Cedeno, Joakim Soria and Jeremy Jeffress allowed three runs in that inning, and Corey Knebel gave up one run in the ninth before stranding the tying run at third base and picking up the save.
Though it wasn’t a win, Roberts certainly sounded like a guy encouraged by what his team was able to do against the bullpen with the best ERA in the National League in the regular season.
“They’re running some good arms out there,” Roberts said. “But for us to get a look at these guys out of the pen in a seven-game series, I think that’s a good thing.”
The Colorado Rockies were saying similar things after Game 1 of the NLDS and proceeded to not score a run the rest of the series. Hader wasn’t phased when asked about Roberts’ comments.
“We won the ballgame,” the lefty said. “That’s the end accomplishment right there, getting that win.”
Free food, please
Thanks to the Brewers winning their 12th straight game, George Webb will be serving free hamburgers on Thursday next week.