After what seems like forever since the opening round of the playoffs was completed in the National League, the Dodgers and Brewers will finally take the field against one another in the NLCS, starting Friday at Miller Park.
All the talk surrounding the two teams has been what will come of the matchup between the Milwaukee bullpen and the Dodgers deep bench and platoon strategy.
NLCS Game 1 lineups
Trying to slow down the Brewers and their 11-game winning streak is Clayton Kershaw in his ninth career Game 1 start.
Kershaw is coming off the best start of his career in the postseason, shutting down the young, aggressive offense of the Braves for eight scoreless on only 85 pitches in Game 2 of the NLDS. The 30-year-old is in for a greater challenge when he takes the ball for Game 1, facing a lineup that will feature four of the National League’s top hitters in terms of OPS against left-handers this year.
Christian Yelich (.983), Lorenzo Cain (.979), Jesus Aguilar (.928) and Ryan Braun (.859) all hit lefties well and will be at the top of the Brewers lineup. Kershaw only struck out three in the win over Atlanta, making it interesting if he doesn’t miss bats in this series.
Speaking of interesting, Gio Gonzalez is just that as the Game 1 starter for Milwaukee. Gonzalez might not be in the game longer than the first time through the order, with manager Craig Counsell likely to go to his bullpen early no matter what the results are.
The Brewers got five starts from Gonzalez after trading for him at the end of August, with the lefty going 3-0 while posting a 2.13 ERA. Two of those starts were less than five innings while giving up three runs in each. With the dominant bullpen Counsell has at his ready, Gonzalez wasn’t needed for the NLDS sweep over the Rockies.
The Dodgers worked the most walks (647) in baseball this season and could get ahead in the game by continuing their patient approach against Gonzalez. The Brewer left-hander walked at least four batters in nine of his 32 starts during the regular season and 16 times he walked at least three.
Of the Dodgers that were on the team all year, the Dodgers had three of the 44 players in baseball that walked at least 69 times. Adding Machado and Dozier to the mix, they had five of those 44 players.
Max Muncy — leader of the Dodgers in walks (79) — won’t be in the lineup initially, giving way to David Freese at first. One of the two best hitters in the National League, Muncy will eventually get into the lineup in both of the first two games for multiple at-bats. But the Brewers bullpen also has great splits against left-handed batters no matter who is throwing.
The Brewers, also going with lefties to start the first two games of the series, will face a stacked right-handed lineup. The Dodgers have several of the other names on the same list as the aforementioned Brewers for top hitters in the NL with OPS.
Justin Turner (1.028), Manny Machado (.921), Muncy (.891), Freese (.876) and Matt Kemp (.828) all have done well. As a team, the Dodgers dramatically improved later in the season, with the help of their key trade acquisitions. But that didn’t make a difference one way or the other in the NLDS.
Dodgers vs. LHP in 2018:— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) October 11, 2018
before July 31: .224/.309/.382, 90 wRC+ (20th in MLB)
after August 1: .269/.349/.457, 121 wRC+ (2nd in MLB)
vs. Braves LHP in NLDS: .171/.293/.257 (6-for-35, HR, 6 BB)
Brewers starting LHP in first 2 games of NLCS (Gonzalez, Miley)
So much left-handed talk in this series.
The other best hitter in the NL is Yelich. If the Dodgers can keep him from doing damage (good luck), the advantage in this series heavily favors the Dodgers. The catalyst for the Brewer offense, Yelich reached base eight times in the three games against Colorado, with six walks, four runs scored and a big two-run homer in Game 1.
Both team will be looking for a fast start on offense in what could be a battle of pitching staffs.