Gio Gonzalez will get the ball in Game 1 for Milwaukee

Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell remains full of surprises.

The latest move few saw coming happened Thursday afternoon, as he named Gio Gonzalez as his Game 1 starter in the National League Championship Series. It will be the left-handers first action against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, though in his career he’s 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA against them.

“We like the matchup against their lineup. It’s no secret we’re going to use our pitching a little differently than the traditionalists would like,” Counsell said.

“We’re asking Gio to go out there and get a bunch of outs. How many, we’ll just see how it goes.”

Gonzalez didn’t pitch in the NLDS, meaning when he takes the mound on Friday night it’ll have been 12 days since his last start. It’s similar to the layoff he had between his final start with the Washington Nationals before being traded to Milwaukee in late August. All he’s done since joining the club is put together a string of five really solid starts. He went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA, a significant improvement over what he’d done in Washington.

“Any player that’s traded there’s a little more juice there,” Counsell said. “You gotta prove yourself, even though you’re an established Major Leaguer. There’s just a little added juice. And I think in Gio’s case, the trick is do you use that in the right way. And Gio has used it in the right way.”

For Gonzalez, the chance to be a part of a team competing for a championship is special. Six weeks ago, the 33-year-old was on a club that had underachieved and was already making plans for the offseason. He knew his time in Washington was likely done, and he wasn’t sure what would come next. Now, he’s eight wins from getting a ring.

“I just want to pitch. I’m grateful I get to pitch another postseason game and with another team now,” Gonzalez said. “I think it’s pretty remarkable, pretty incredible, and hopefully I get to tell my kids about this one day.”

How long he’ll be on the mound remains to be seen. As Counsell said, they’ve made no secret that they’ve approached pitching this season differently than most. It’s what led to going with a bullpen game to start the NLDS and now going with a guy that may not make it past the third or fourth inning in Game 1 of the NLCS. Counsell knows his team and what works for them.

“We’re not trying to eliminate the need for great starting pitching,” Counsell said, noting he’d start his former teammate, Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, if he could. “Our team’s different. We’re trying to figure out what is the best way for us to put together a tough 27 outs and make it tough on them and get those outs as fast as we can. We’re considering a different way to put that puzzle together.”

And Gonzalez is just fine with that, knowing that if he can get one time through the order, they’ve got the best bullpen in baseball to back him up.

“Any way you need me, any style of pitching, I’m in,” Gonzalez said of his message to Counsell. “I want to be a part of it any way possible.”

Milwaukee Brewers’ NLCS opponent set

The Milwaukee Brewers only had to wait one day to find out who they would be taking on in the National League Championship Series.

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves 6-2 in Game 4 of the NLDS to advance to the NLCS against Milwaukee in a series that will begin on Friday night.

The Brewers finished the regular season with a better record than Los Angeles, meaning that the Brewers will have home field advantage in the series. Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 would all be played at Miller Park, while Games 3, 4, and 5 would all be played at Dodger Stadium out in L.A.

As of Tuesday morning the Brewers had not yet named a starter for Game 1 of the NLCS, while the Dodgers will be sending former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound. Kershaw has a record of 8-7 with a 4.08 ERA in 25 postseason appearances. In the NLDS against Atlanta he pitched eight shutout innings in Los Angeles’ Game 2 win.

During the regular season the Brewers and Dodgers matched up seven times with Los Angeles winning four of them, including two of three at Miller Park in July.

The schedule for the series is as follows:

Game 1
| Friday, Oct. 12, Miller Park, 7 p.m. CT

Game 2
| Saturday, Oct. 13, Miller Park

Game 3
| Monday, Oct. 15, Dodger Stadium

Game 4
| Tuesday, Oct. 16, Dodger Stadium

Game 5*
| Wednesday, Oct. 17, Dodger Stadium

Game 6*
| Friday, Oct. 19, Miller Park

Game 7*
| Saturday, Oct. 20, Miller Park

*Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary.

Brewers beat Rockies, advance to NLCS

The Milwaukee Brewers have advanced to the National League Championship Series for just the second time in franchise history. They finished off a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies on Sunday evening with a 6-0 win at Coors Field.

Milwaukee drew first blood in the top half of the first inning as Christian Yelich scored on an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of second baseman Travis Shaw. The Brewers then added a run in the fourth inning on a home run to left field by Jesús Aguilar to make it 2-0 with Wade Miley on the mound.

Miley pitched well for Milwaukee, allowing three hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings on the mound. That effort was more than enough for the Brewers, as they finish the series allowing only two runs in 28 innings against Colorado in the entire NLDS.

Following Miley, the Brewers used a combination of Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, Corbin Burnes, Jeremy Jeffress, and Josh Hader to record the final 13 outs of the game. They combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings allowing only three base runners and striking out six. Jeffress was the only one that seemed to struggle even a little bit. He allowed two of the three batters he faced in the top of the ninth to reach before being pulled in favor of Hader.

After holding that 2-0 lead into the sixth, the Brewers were able to tack on two more thanks to a balk and a wild pitch by Colorado pitcher Scott Oberg to push the lead to 4-0. Milwaukee then added more insurance in the top of the ninth on back-to-back home runs by Orlando Arcia and Keon Broxton.

The Brewers will now be advancing to the NLCS where they will face the winner of the Atlanta-Los Angeles series that the Dodgers currently hold a 2-0 lead in. Regardless of the outcome in that series, the NLCS will open up on Friday at Miller Park due to the Brewers owning the top record in the National League.

Brewers 4, Rockies 0: What we saw

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers are one win away from playing for the National League pennant. The Crew used a three-run eighth inning to put away the Colorado Rockies late Friday afternoon in a 4-0 win in Game 2 of the NLDS. It left Milwaukee up 2-0 in the best-of-five series as it shifts to Colorado on Sunday for Game 3.

Here’s what we saw:

Redemption for Jeremy Jeffress

Roughly 24 hours after blowing a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning of a game Milwaukee ended up winning, Jeremy Jeffress sat in the Brewers’ media interview room, his daughter Jurnee on his lap, with a big smile on his face. The veteran had just pitched two scoreless innings, including the eighth when the game was still just 1-0.

“It just shows the confidence, the team, the managers, all the coaches have in me,” Jeffress said. “But you’ve got to have a short-term memory in that bullpen, especially with these high-leverage games.”

Some managers might have flinched at putting their guy back into that high pressure situation right away, but Craig Counsell did not.

“He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of the dominant relievers in this league this year. There’s no hesitation at all,” Counsell said. “He is a guy that we’ll continue to count on and are going to need to make a really good run. I’m proud of him.”

The manager on the other side, Colorado’s Bud Black, was impressed as well.

“I don’t know this fellow,” Black said of Jeffress, “… but to bounce back and come back and pitch two innings and put up a couple zeros, it says a little bit about the makeup of this kid.”

It does, indeed. Counsell said earlier in the week that he was going to put a little bit more on Jeffress’ back during the series and that meant coming right back to him after such a gut punch on Thursday. He handled it well and delivered for Milwaukee.

“I can’t put it into words the confidence that Counsell has [in] me,” Jeffress said. “It’s fun. I’m enjoying every single moment, and that shows.”

Thank you, Jhoulys

Jhoulys Chacin came through on Monday with a big-time effort in Game 163 to help Milwaukee beat Chicago and win the NL Central. Called upon after just three days rest, the righty once again provided the boost the Brewers needed.

Chacin went five innings on Friday, giving up just three hits and helped get Counsell to his bullpen a day after using six pitchers and playing extra innings.

“If you go five innings and [give up] no runs, that exceeds expectations every day. He was magnificent,” Counsell said. “Short rest, five innings, that’s exactly what we needed and wanted.”

Chacin got the win in his first playoff appearance and did it against the team he started his career with. An under the radar free agent signing last winter, Chacin and the rest of the pitching staff have carried the team in the first two games of the postseason. Counsell said they are the story of the series so far and he’s right.

“Like I said before, we always believe in ourselves,” Chacin said of the pitching staff, especially the starters. “We never care what other people say outside the clubhouse.”

Biggest hit of his career

Erik Kratz was not seen as much more than just a backup when Milwaukee acquired him via trade with the New York Yankees in mid-June. But he’s played a significant role in recent months and was back at it again on Friday.

Following another big Mike Moustakas RBI to make it 2-0 in the eighth, Kratz came up with the bases loaded and two outs. He battled Rockies’ reliever Chris Rusin and won, lifting a two-run single to left field. It proved to be the biggest hit of the game and his career.

“I hit a homer in the Triple-A playoffs one time. That was pretty cool,” Kratz joked. “Yeah, it’s the biggest hit. Just like the strikeout [in the previous at-bat] was the biggest strikeout of my career. That’s what this moment is.”

Obviously, Moustakas has been here before with Kansas City, but the moment Kratz is referring to is ones made for unlikely heroes. That’s what Kratz was on Friday, as was shortstop Hernan Perez, who doubled twice and drove in the first run. It can’t always be Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain getting it done for the Brewers. That was never more apparent than in Game 2.

Last strikes: Brewers 3, Rockies 2

MILWAUKEE – Twenty-five last strikes for the 25 pitches thrown by Milwaukee reliever Corey Knebel in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the 2018 NLDS.

1. What a way to start October baseball.

2. Yes, the Brewers essentially played a playoff game on Oct. 1 in Game 163 at Wrigley Field against the Cubs to decide the NL Central and the right to be in the position they’re currently in. But this game was the true start of the playoffs for Milwaukee, and it could not have been more riveting.

3. Third baseman Mike Moustakas ended the game in the bottom of the 10th inning on a walk-off single scoring Christian Yelich from third base. This came after the Brewers allowed a pair of runs to the Rockies to tie the game in the top of the ninth off of closer Jeremy Jeffress.

4. Brewers manager Craig Counsell has been attempting to get away from the way pitchers are traditionally used throughout the course of the season. Rather than refer to certain pitchers as “starters” or “relievers” he tends to use the term “out-getters” for everyone.

5. That strategy worked to near perfection for the first 24 outs of the game. If you’re bad at math, that adds up to the first eight innings.

6. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Corey Knebel, and Josh Hader were all fantastic for the Brewers. The problem for the Crew was that Jeffress was not.

7. That first foursome totaled eight innings of shutout baseball, allowing just one hit to Colorado while striking out 10. It may have been odd to see the Brewers use a bullpen game in the first game of the NLDS, but it could not have gone better for them.

8. That is, until Jeffress entered.

9. In the ninth inning Jeffress allowed a pair of hits to Colorado on his first three pitches to Rockies’ hitters. Charlie Blackmon then nearly hit an RBI double – ruled just foul upon review – before cashing in with a single to cut the lead to 2-1. After that, the normally sure-handed Orlando Arcia made an error at shortstop to load the bases with one run in and no one out.

10. Colorado’s most dangerous hitter, Nolan Arenado, then stepped up to the plate with the tying run just 90 feet away. He hit an 0-2 pitch to center field for a sacrifice fly that tied the game at 2.

11. Jeffress was able to recompose and escape the inning without any further damage being inflicting, which seemed like a giant win for the Brewers.

12. “It was a big punch because of the way that we pitched the whole game, because we pitched beautifully the whole game,” Counsell said. “That inning could have fallen apart really bad after we gave up two runs with first and third and one out, and they’re looking really good still.”

13. Counsell is right. That was a huge gut punch. It felt as if the wind was sucked out of the enclosed Miller Park when the tying run scored. The Brewers worked the bullpen strategy to perfection for the first eight innings of the game only to see it come undone in the ninth inning.

14. There can be quite a bit of irony in all of this too. When the bullpen is employed the way it was by Counsell in Game 1, there can be quite a few very difficult decisions to be made in terms of which “out-getter” enters at certain times.

15. The one constant – whether it be a bullpen game or a game pitched traditionally – is that the closer is typically saved for the ninth. Bringing Jeffress in for that inning was the easiest decision that Counsell had to make on Thursday night. It’s also the only one that didn’t work.

16. “I mean, look, it worked the way we wanted. I mean, it worked beautifully,” Counsell said. “Any time we can get J.J. into a game at the end of the game or Corey or Josh, the game has worked.

17. “You work hard to try to put yourselves into that position. We had the game right where we wanted to, and I thought J.J. made some good pitches, just they hit some ground balls – got a solid base hit to Parra and then they hit a couple balls to the infield and then he made some big-time pitches to keep the score tied.”

18. At this point, it’s fair to question whether or not the Brewers should be required by MLB to send the Miami Marlins more prospects for Christian Yelich.

19. Yes, that’s said in jest, but he’s been the best player in baseball for the past month or so and has had a second half that rivals the play of Barry Bonds. He’s been that good. It was Yelich’s two-run blast in the third inning to put Milwaukee in front. Then, to make things even better, he fought back from an 0-2 hole against Colorado’s Adam Ottavino in the 10th inning to draw a lead-off walk and eventually score the winning run.

20. “Definitely an unbelievable moment,” Moustakas said of his walk-off single while sharing the podium with Yelich. “Bit wouldn’t have been able to be there unless this guy didn’t do his job and everybody else on that field didn’t do their jobs.”

21. Maybe, just maybe Moustakas was able to steal some magic from the man that threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday, too.

22. Nyjer Morgan made his return to Miller Park to throw out the first pitch at the same place he delivered for this franchise seven years ago. Back in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS Morgan sent the Brewers to the NLCS with his walk-off single in the 10th inning to give the Brewers a 3-2 victory.

23. The stakes were higher in a Game 5 than a Game 1, naturally, but it was still a cool moment to have such a similar finish with Morgan in the building.

24. “It was really cool, it was special,” Braun said of catching the first pitch from Morgan. “T-Plush meant so much to this organization when he was here in 2011. It was special year. I don’t know if there was anybody that could get the crowd hyped better than he could. You know you could have Prince [Fielder] or Rickie [Weeks], or some of the other guys that played here longer, but T-Plush has a unique ability to get the crowd fired up so it was a fun way to start for all of us.”

25. There’s no doubting that it was a fun start to the night for Miller Park, and just like that night in October seven years ago, it was a fun finish, too.

Twitter reacts to Milwaukee’s walk-off win in Game 1

It took longer than anyone wanted, but the Milwaukee Brewers are up 1-0 on the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series.

The Crew led most of the way thanks to a 2-run homer in the third inning by outfielder Christian Yelich, but in the ninth the Rockies scored a pair to send it to extras. After a scoreless top of the 10th, Milwaukee got a single from third baseman Mike Moustakas in the bottom half of the inning for the walk-off 3-2 win in Game 1.

As you’d imagine, Twitter was eventful throughout the game. Here’s the best of what we saw.

https://twitter.com/JaireAlexander/status/1047989083321065473

NLDS Preview: Brewers vs Rockies

For just the fifth time in franchise history the Milwaukee Brewers are participants in the playoffs.

Milwaukee finished the first 162 games of the regular season tied with the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central Division before defeating the Cubs 3-1 in a tie-breaking Game 163 at Wrigley Field. The victory earned the Brewers home field advantage through the National League playoffs and a trip to the NLDS.

In the best-of-five NLDS the Brewers will be taking on the Colorado Rockies. The series follows a 2-2-1 format, with the beginning at Miller Park.

How they got here:

The Rockies, like the Brewers, finished in a tie for the lead in their division. That meant they played in a tie-breaking Game 163 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unlike the Brewers, the Rockies lost their Game 163 meaning they were off to Chicago for the NL Wild Card Game.

Colorado then knocked off the Cubs 2-1 in a 13-inning thriller of a NL Wild Card Game on Monday night in Chicago. The Rockies were able to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning before the Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. The teams traded scoreless innings until the top of the 13th when Colorado’s Tony Wolters drove in the go-ahead run on a two-out RBI single.

As for the Brewers, their Game 163 win over the Cubs meant they automatically advanced here instead of having to play in the single-elimination NL Wild Card Game.

MVP Candidates:

By now, it would be a shock to most, if not all, if Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich didn’t win the 2018 NL MVP Award. He’s more than earned that honor with a scorching second half following his first career All-Star appearance. The outfielder has been everything the Brewers could have asked for and more when they acquired him from the Miami Marlins for a package of prospects this past winter.

Yelich has been Milwaukee’s best player without question, but he’s had plenty of help from fellow outfielder Lorenzo Cain as well as infielders Travis Shaw and Jesús Aguilar.

For Colorado, there hasn’t been one player stand above the rest the way Yelich has in Milwaukee, but the Rockies have gotten near MVP-level contributions from both third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story.

Arenado is a borderline top 10 position player in baseball and Story followed up an outstanding rookie campaign that was cut short due to injury with an even better sophomore season. Both players finished the regular season in the top 10 in FanGraphs WAR (fWAR) with marks of 5.7 and 5.0, respectively. To compare, Yelich led the NL with a 7.6 fWAR and Cain was at 5.7 as the top two Brewers.

Pitching:

The Brewers have relied on their bullpen for much of the season, and with good reason. According to FanGraphs the Brewers had the second-best bullpen in the NL with a combined fWAR of 7.1. Josh Hader is widely regarded as the best reliever in the league following his breakout campaign and may even garner some Cy Young votes, Corey Knebel has been lights out since his short stint in AAA, and Jeremy Jeffress has been one of the more underrated relievers in all of baseball.

Milwaukee has tried to re-write the way that pitchers are used as opposed to traditional ways. In their season-defining series against the St. Louis Cardinals the Brewers opened up the first game with lefty reliever Dan Jennings on the mound. Jennings recorded the first out of the game before being pulled in favor of traditional starter Freddy Peralta.

The starting pitching staff for the Brewers has certainly been underrated nationally, but it was a middle-of-the-pack group in the NL. Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley were both good for the Brewers, when available in Miley’s case, but the rotation lacks a traditional go-to ace. There isn’t anyone in Milwaukee’s rotation strikes fear into opposing hitters.

The Rockies on the other hand do not have as strong of a bullpen as the Brewers, but few do. Colorado’s relievers were still one of the better groups in the NL for much of the season, and they had an extremely strong month of September, too.

The starting pitching for the Rockies is where the advantage in this series may lie. Kyle Freeland has been Cy Young quality in the second half of the season and German Marquez had a terrific season for Colorado as well. Freeland just pitched on Monday in the NL Wild Card Game on short rest throwing 6 2/3 innings of scores baseball while allowing only four hits and striking out six. He kept the Cubs off balance all night. The best part about that for the Brewers is that he won’t be starting Game 1 of the NLDS. That honor will go to Antonio Senzatela. Senzatela was 4-5 this season in just 13 starts with an ERA of 3.95 in 73 innings.

Managers:

Craig Counsell should win National League Manager of the Year for his efforts in guiding Milwaukee to the best record in the league. He’s a very deserving candidate without question. This is also the first playoff series that he’s ever managed.

Colorado’s Bud Black has been around for quite some time, although this is his first postseason series as well. He managed the San Diego Padres from 2007 until 2015, never qualifying for the playoffs. Black’s Padres did lose a Game 163 in 2007 to the Rockies for the NL Wild Card.

Truthfully, Counsell is probably the better manager of the two, especially with neither having any postseason experience.

Season Series:

The Brewers claimed the season series over the Rockies in 2018 by winning five of the seven games played between the two teams. Milwaukee took three-of-four from Colorado at Coors field in mid-May and then two-of-three at Miller Park during the first week of August.

Schedule and Probables:

Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 4, 4:07 p.m. CT at Miller Park
Brandon Woodruff (MIL, 3-0, 3.61 ERA) vs Antonio Senzatela (COL, 6-6, 4.38 ERA)
Game 2: Friday, Oct. 5, 3:15 p.m. CT at Miller Park
Jhoulys Chacin (MIL, 15-8, 3.50 ERA) vs TBD
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 7, 3:37 p.m. CT at Coors Field
TBD vs TBD
Game 4*: Monday, Oct. 8, TBD at Coors Field
TBD vs TBD
Game 5*: Wednesday, Oct. 10, TBD at Miller Park
TBD vs TBD

*Games 4 and 5 are if necessary.

Zone Predictions:

Zach Heilprin: Brewers in 4
Joe Miller: Brewers in 4
Ebo Thoreson: Brewers in 4
Danny Cunningham: Rockies in 5

Brewers NLDS opponent set

The Milwaukee Brewers had to wait an extra day after clinching the National League Central Division before finding out who the opponent would be in the National League Division Series. The opponent was unveiled very early on Wednesday morning as the Colorado Rockies defeated the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in the NL Wild Card game.

By finishing with a record of 96-67 the Brewers not only claimed the NL Central, but also the best record in the entire National League, earning home field advantage through at least the NLCS.

The Rockies and Cubs played a 13-inning thriller at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night to earn the right to advance to the NLDS to take on the Milwaukee Brewers in a best-of-five series.

Colorado struck first with a run in the top half of the first inning and then was quiet until the very end of the game. Chicago tied the game on a Javy Baez single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

In the top of the 13th the Rockies got three consecutive two-out singles by Trevor Story, Gerardo Parra, and Tony Wolters. Wolters’ single drove in the go-ahead run to give Colorado a 2-1 lead in which they would not relinquish.

Game 1 of the NLDS between the Rockies and Brewers is set for Thursday afternoon at 4:07 p.m. CT at Miller Park. Starting pitchers for the series have not yet been announced.

Brewers playoff game times set, tickets sold out

Milwaukee Brewers fans have caught playoff fever.

The club announced Tuesday that tickets for the National League Divisional Series were sold out.

Fans had a chance to guarantee themselves postseason tickets for all rounds by putting money down on a 2019 ticket plan or starting last Friday they could buy single-game tickets for the NLDS.

Milwaukee is guaranteed two home games, though its opponent is still to be decided. As the top seed in the NL, the Brewers will get the winner of Tuesday night’s Wild Card game between Chicago and Colorado.

MLB announced Tuesday that Game 1 is slated to start at 4:07 p.m. (FS1) on Thursday and Game 2 has a first pitch of 3:15 p.m. (FS1) on Friday. Game 3, on the road, will take place on Sunday.

If you’re planning to attend the games later this week, the Brewers sent out an information sheet for fans. You can find that here.

Brewers celebrate as they claim NL Central with win over Cubs

What once seemed like just a dream is now a reality. The Milwaukee Brewers clinched the National League Central Division with a 3-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Monday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

The two teams finished the first 162 games of the regular season tied with 95 wins apiece, requiring a 163rd game to serve as the tiebreaker. Due to the Cubs winning 11 of the 19 head-to-head contests during the season they earned the right to host the game.

The Brewers struck first with a run in the third inning on a RBI-single from outfielder Christian Yelich scoring Orlando Arcia from third. Those two went a combined 7-for-8 at the dish on the day as Yelich was 3-4 and Arcia was a season-best 4-4 in the win.

The Cubs then tied the game on an Anthony Rizzo solo home run off of Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin in the fifth inning. That home run was the only damage allowed by Chacin. He pitched 5 2/3 innings allowing just the one run on one hit and two walks while striking out three.

From there the bullpen was mostly good as Xavier Cedeño struggled, but Joakim Soria, Corey Knebel and Josh Hader well pitched very well.

Knebel earned the win as he pitched a perfect seventh inning and Hader recorded a two-inning save, allowing only a two-out base hit to Chicago’s Javy Baez in the ninth. He then retired Rizzo on a fly ball to right field and the celebration was on.

The Brewers now advance to the National League Division Series where they will take on the winner of the NL Wild Card Game between the Cubs and the loser of the Game 163 between Colorado and Los Angeles.

The NLDS will begin on Thursday at Miller Park. A start time has not yet been announced.