The Dodgers had almost nothing go their way for most of Friday night at Miller Park. They needed to get out to a lead before the monster that lurks in the Brewers’ bullpen could come in to drastically decrease the chances to score runs.
After getting a leadoff homer off the bat of Manny Machado to grab an early 1-0 lead, the Dodgers couldn’t get out of their own way as Milwaukee touched up Clayton Kershaw to the tune of five runs. Then the Brewers let the monster eat, suffocating the Dodgers until the late innings as they held on for a 6-5 win in Game 1.
It was no secret to anybody that Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell couldn’t wait to give the ball to his bullpen. What nobody expected was the bullpen sparking the offense with a bat in hand.
Brandon Woodruff struck out four in two perfect innings of relief, entering in place of starter Gio Gonzalez who was pulled after two. But it was Woodruff’s solo shot — of the non-cheap variety to the deepest part of the park in center — that started the momentum in the Brewers favor.
Kershaw followed the homer by allowing a single to Lorenzo Cain and walking Christian Yelich, giving a chance for the Brewers to take their first lead. This is where things started to come off the rails for Los Angeles.
While Jesús Aguilar was hitting with one out when Yasmani Grandal allowed his second passed ball of the evening, allowing both runners to advance to second and third. Moments later, Aguilar lined out to first on a fantastic grab by the diving David Freese. Only it didn't count.
Aguilar’s bat hit Grandal’s glove for Catcher’s interference, loading the bases on what would’ve been the second out. Kershaw would get out of the inning two batters later, but not before the Brewers took the lead on a sacrifice fly.
The final out of the third would be the last out Kershaw would get in the game.
The first three hitters reached for the Brewers, prompting manager Dave Roberts to come get his left-hander after allowing a run-scoring single. Milwaukee tacked on one more before the inning would reach it’s conclusion, stretching the deficit to 5-1.
For Kershaw, three innings is the shortest career outing in 21 postseason starts. The lefty gave up a total of six hits and two walks to go along with the five runs, of which four were earned. Kershaw managed just two strikeouts.
“No,” Roberts said when asked to put a finger on Kershaw’s struggles in the postseason. “As far as tonight, first of all, we gave up too many bases. We didn’t play clean when (Kershaw) was in the game.”
“The errors affected the game. But as far as Clayton, I just think it was poor execution. 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.”
At that point, with Josh Hader coming in for the fifth and a sloppy showing — four errors when all was said and done — on defense, the game looked out of the Dodgers reach. Hader did nothing to prove otherwise, locking up three shutout innings to put the Brewers within six outs of the win.
Aguilar piled on with a solo shot off Julio Urías in the seventh, cutting the chances even slimmer. But the Dodgers would not go quietly.
With two outs in the eighth inning, Max Muncy would work a two-out walk that loaded the bases for Machado. Counsell went to Jeremy Jeffress in search of the final out of the frame. Instead, Machado floated a two-run single to left and Matt Kemp followed with an RBI-single of his own, setting up for a wild ninth inning.
Corey Knebel got the first two outs of the ninth without incident to bring Joc Pederson to the plate as the Dodgers last hope. Pederson worked a walk on seven pitches to keep his team alive.
Chris Taylor didn’t wait around, hitting the first pitch he saw from Knebel into the gap to the right of center at the wall. Cain got a glove on the ball but it fell to the ground for a triple, cutting the Brewer lead to one.
With the tying run now 90 feet away and Justin Turner due up, it’s the guy the Dodgers would want at the plate with the game in the balance. But Knebel would blow a 97-mph fastball past Turner at the letters of his jersey to end the game.
“I thought we played an entire baseball game,” Roberts said. “For them to use Hader for three innings tonight and for us to get a good look at their arms in the pen, I thought we had good at-bats all the way till the end.”
“So they were selling out, obviously, with Josh going three innings tonight against us. But I thought our at-bats -- even when we weren’t scoring runs, I thought they were competitive.”
One of the toughest aspects for the Dodgers is the fact that they held Yelich hitless in four at-bats but still surrendered six runs in the process.
The Dodgers saw seven innings and 132 pitches from Milwaukee’s bullpen. The two teams will move on quickly with an afternoon game Saturday in a crucial game for Los Angeles.
Hyun-Jin Ryu gets his shot in Game 2 as the Dodgers look to bounce back against Wade Miley and the Brewers.
Home Runs: Machado (1), Woodruff (1), Aguilar (1)
WP: Brandon Woodruff (1-0): 2 IP, 4 strikeouts
LP: Clayton Kershaw (0-1): 3+ IP, 6 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
SV: Corey Knebel (1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts