LOS ANGELES — For the third time in six postseason games, the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff tossed a shutout. The latest effort came Monday night in Game 3 of the NLCS, as they blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Here’s what we saw at Dodger Stadium:
Jhoulys Chacin continues to roll
Twenty-one innings, two earned runs. That’s what Jhoulys Chacin has done the last four times Milwaukee has handed him the ball. They were all pressure situations and all of them were nearly lights out efforts. After going 5 1/3 innings on Monday and not allowing a run, he became just the fifth pitcher in MLB history to have scoreless starts of five or more innings in his first two postseason appearances.
“Jhoulys was just outstanding tonight,” manager Craig Counsell said. “The last four times we’ve given him the ball, it’s just been a big-time performance each and every time.”
Going back to the NLDS, Milwaukee’s starting pitchers have now allowed just one run over six postseason games.
“Our guys that we’re giving the ball to at the start of the game, they’re doing a heck of a job, man,” Counsell said. “And they’re setting the tone for games.
“They’re putting us in a very advantageous position to use our guys in the bullpen. And then that’s going to lead to wins.”
It has, and now the club has five wins in the books and need six more for a World Series title.
Orlando Arcia — power hitter
Shortstop Orlando Arcia was sent to the minors twice during the season because of his funk at the plate. So to say his effort in the postseason has been a surprise — at least to the outside world — is underselling the word.
After hitting three home runs all season and batting just .236, the slick-fielding Arcia is batting .316 over the last month and .343 in the last two weeks. Oh, and he’s hit three homers in the postseason, including a two-run shot in the seventh inning to give the Brewers some breathing room.
“Orlando has always been a guy that you want to put a moment on him, put pressure on him,” Counsell said. “Put the spotlight on him. He loves it. And I’m not surprised that he’s thriving in playoff atmosphere. He has this love and he’s wired the right way for this kind of baseball.”
Arcia’s defense is top-notch and he also showed signs in 2017 of being a productive hitter with some power, batting .277 with 15 home runs. For whatever reason, that didn’t carry over to 2018, leading to him getting sent down.
“Every player is going to have their ups and downs,” Arcia said. “This year was definitely a lot of downs for me and things weren’t going my way, so they sent me down. I was able to work on stuff [there].”
The use of Josh Hader
Josh Hader is a dominant force. The reliever owned the Dodgers in Game 1 over two innings and was back at it again on Friday, mowing down a pair of Los Angeles batters in just eight pitches. As he was doing that, a national TV audience heard broadcasters wondering aloud why Counsell would use Hader in a four-run game. Though he didn’t come right out and say it, Counsell had to have been thinking about happened when Hader left in Game 1 and when he was unavailable in Game 2. Save for Corey Knebel and Hader, both games were tough sledding for the rest of the bullpen as the Dodgers battered the likes of Jeremy Jeffress, Xavier Cedeno and Corbin Burnes.
“There was certainly a thought,” Counsell said of saving Hader for a closer game. “At some point [you have to say] the other team is pretty good and you respect their hitters on their team.
“We’re trying to win the series. We’re not just trying to win games here, we’re trying to win the series.”
Those in favor of Hader’s appearance quickly found themselves fuming when he was pulled and Jeffress came on in the ninth inning. After all, Jeffress had been on the mound for eight of the 11 runs scored against Milwaukee in the postseason.
“That’s the debate for sure,” Counsell said of potentially leaving Hader in for the ninth. “[But] we’ve got Jeremy Jeffress, who has been an All-Star this year and pitched [in] huge, huge moments for us during the season. We got a four-run lead. I trust him to get those outs. The ninth inning was entertaining. But they didn’t score.”
It was almost a minor miracle the Dodgers didn’t. They had the bases loaded and just one out in the ninth before Jeffress struck out Yasmani Grandal and Brian Dozier to end the game.
“I’ve said it all year, I strive for those moments. There’s a little extra adrenaline,” Jeffress said. “[You] don’t really want it to get like that, but when those times come, you just have to stay within yourself and continue being the pitcher you are.”
The good news for Milwaukee is that all three relievers — Knebel, Hader and Jeffress | should be available for Game 4 and 5.
Over the weekend, several members of the Los Angeles media remarked how there was very little energy at the games in Milwaukee. It was largely a bogus claim as Miller Park was electric for much of the first two games. That was not the case inside Dodger Stadium on Monday. It felt closer to some ho-hum game in the middle of the season than Game 3 of the NLCS, and at least one player on the Dodgers’ roster called fans out on it.
“We had no energy. The stadium had no energy. The fans had no energy,” Enrique Hernandez said, according to Andy McCullough of the LA Times. “Overall, it was a pretty bad game for everybody who calls themselves Dodgers.”
Here’s Hernandez’s full comments that came in support of catcher Yasmani Grandal, who has struggled in the series and was booed heavily after his various missteps.