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The Los Angeles Dodgers are one win away from the World Series after their 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 5.
The Brewers tried some trickery at the start of Wednesday’s game with starter Wade Miley only facing one batter, but it didn’t matter against Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers starter bounced back from a rough Game 1 outing to allow only one run allowed in seven innings.
Yasiel Puig went 2-for-2 off the bench, including a clutch RBI single in the sixth inning, to help Los Angeles build a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Craig Counsell’s Gamble Gave Brewers Best Chance to Win Series
Wade Miley was the listed starter in Wednesday’s game and pitched to the first batter, but that was the end of his night. Brewer manager Craig Counsell pulled Miley in place of Brandon Woodruff, who took over and struck out eight batters in 5.1 innings while allowing three runs (two earned).
As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports noted, this switch was the team’s plan all along. Miley will instead pitch Game 6.
The move was surprising, but there were several good reasons behind it:
Ryan Rosenblatt @RyanRosenblatt
Did the Brewers try to bait the the Dodgers into a righty-heavy lineup and Roberts called their bluff?
This series is so smart it’s dumb.
Mike Petriello @mike_petriello
This might be a good idea and it might not be, but remember, the alternative here was Wade Miley on short rest. You got to screw with the Dodgers by misleading them about who was starting, and you don’t actually have to have Wade Miley on short rest. Well, yeah. Why not
Los Angeles didn’t go as righty-heavy against the left-handed Miley as it did in Game 1, but David Freese was still in the No. 3 spot in the lineup and was pulled after only one at-bat.
Perhaps more importantly, the Brewers’ rotation was not lined up well going forward. Not only was Miley starting on three days of rest, but Jhoulys Chacin also would have had to go on short rest in Game 6.
With the team’s lack of starting pitching depth, Game 7 would have been a complete mystery.
Suddenly, the Brewers have their top two starters available on full rest in the next two games if needed, both of which will be at home.
Meanwhile, this was more than just punting one game to get an advantage in the others. Woodruff had been one of the team’s best pitchers down the stretch, and he put forth an excellent performance Wednesday. His 5.1 innings were his longest outing of the season.
Though things went south the third time through the order, Woodruff gave the Brewers a chance to win and helped prove Counsell right, despite the loss.
Clayton Kershaw Still Has More to Prove Before Changing Playoff Narrative
It’s almost undeniable that Kershaw has been the best pitcher in baseball over the past decade. The problem is his reputation has been held back due to his struggles in the playoffs.
He has a career 2.39 ERA in the regular season, but he entered Wednesday with a 4.26 mark in the playoffs. That included a 5.24 ERA in 11 appearances in the NLCS.
Kershaw did everything he could to show he was past his struggles Wednesday, going seven innings with only one run allowed on three hits. He also struck out nine batters while walking only two.
Andy McCullough @McCulloughTimes
Seven innings of one-run baseball from Clayton Kershaw. Fresh off the worst postseason start of his career, this is one of his best.
He was aggressive with his curveball, which was especially impressive:
As we have seen so many times throughout his MLB career, Kershaw was the biggest reason the Dodgers came away with a win.
On the other hand, we have also seen him pitch well in the playoffs before, including when he shut down the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of this year’s NLDS. The postseason monkey seemed to be off his back, but then he failed to get past the fourth inning in Game 1 of this series.
Last year, he followed up a gem in Game 1 of the World Series with a dud in Game 5.
When Kershaw is at his best, there is no one better in the game, but the Dodgers need him to be at least close to his best every time out when the stakes are this high. Failing to get out of the fifth inning won’t get it done.
As well as he pitched against the Brewers on Wednesday, one game in the NLCS will not define his legacy. If the Dodgers advance to World Series, Kershaw will need to produce more quality starts to change his negative playoff narrative.
Brewers Won’t Reach World Series Unless Christian Yelich Wakes Up
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Christian Yelich is the favorite to win MVP of the National League, and he is one of the biggest reasons the Brewers are still alive in the playoffs. However, he hasn’t looked like himself so far this series.
The outfielder finished 0-for-4 in Game 5 with one strikeout, which is the first time he failed to reach base so far this postseason.
Although he had been drawing some walks prior to Wednesday, he is now hitting .150 in five games this series with only three singles.
His last extra-base hit came in Game 1 of the NLDS when he hit a home run against the Colorado Rockies. Since then, he is just 3-of-25 at the plate in seven games.
No one was hotter than Yelich in the second half of the season, and he was especially dominant in the final week. While the Brewers were closing the regular season with eight straight wins, the outfielder had a .458 batting average and an outrageous 1.857 OPS.
It’s impossible for someone to stay that hot forever, but the Brewers weren’t expecting him to go so cold this quickly.
While Milwaukee has other quality hitters on the roster, its offense has been nonexistent over the past two games. The Brewers’ season may end Friday unless Yelich turns things around in a hurry.
The series now returns to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Friday. Wade Miley will likely make a real start for the Brewers, while Hyun-Jin Ryu will be available for the Dodgers.