Coming into the series, the Brewers bullpen was one of the biggest headlines. Led by Josh Hader, Milwaukee was among one of the best bullpens in all of baseball during the 2018 season. With the Dodgers having the edge in starting pitching, Milwaukee was expected to have the upper hand with their bullpen.
Ironically through two games, the Dodgers have had the better bullpen, where as the Brewers have had the better starting pitching.
During the season, Milwaukee’s bullpen possessed a 3.47 ERA, the second best in the NL. Through two games in the NLCS, it’s an astonishing 7.71.
In game one, it looked as if things were going according to plan. Brandon Woodruff came into the game to pitch the third and fourth innings. In two innings, Woodruff struck out four without allowing a hit. Helping his own cause, he also hit a home run off of Clayton Kershaw to tie the game.
In the fifth, the Brewers turned to Hader, their all-star. The Dodgers didn’t have an answer for him, as he threw three scoreless innings.
Things began to fall apart in the eighth for Milwaukee. Xavier Cedeño, who had a 2.43 ERA on the year, came in and allowed one run in only 1⁄3 an inning of work. Joakim Soria followed, and allowed two runs in 1⁄3 of an inning.
Corey Knebel came in to get the save, and almost blew the game. He allowed a run, and had the tying run on third base. He ultimately got a strikeout to end the game, saving the bullpen from taking a potential loss.
The Brewers bullpen couldn’t avoid the loss on Saturday. After Wade Miley shut the Dodgers down for 5 2⁄3 innings, Corbin Burnes came in and allowed two runs. On the season, Burnes was 7-0 with a 2.61 ERA.
With Hader unavailable, Milwaukee turned to their next best reliever, Jeremy Jeffress. In 2018, Jeffress was 8-1 with an astonishing 1.29 ERA. For the first time since June 23, he allowed two runs in an outing, allowing a go-ahead two-run homer to Justin Turner. Jeffress didn’t take the loss well, calling the Dodgers breakthrough “lucky.”
Safe to say, the Brewers bullpen has struggled significantly. On the other hand, the Dodgers bullpen has been nearly lights out. In 9 2⁄3 innings, the bullpen has allowed only two runs, both coming courtesy of solo homers.
After having a 6.48 ERA in nine games with LA, Ryan Madson had proved to be the most reliable arm out of the pen. In 1 2⁄3 innings, he’s entered with runners on base and limited the damage. Madson held the Brewers to just one run Saturday after inheriting a bases loaded situation with only one out.
After facing only one batter in the NLDS, Dylan Floro has thrown 1 2⁄3 innings of shutout ball already in this series.
Pedro Baez, who was lights outs down the stretch for LA, has been even better as advertised during the last two games. In 2 1⁄3 innings, he’s allowed only one hit, including four strikeouts. Going back to August 13, Baez has only allowed one run. He’s quickly established himself as the go-to arm in the eighth before Kenley Jansen.
With a day off until the next game, both bullpens will get rest, and likely have everyone ready for game 3. The Dodgers have shown they can get to any reliever, with the exception of Hader.
After tying the series at one a piece, the Dodgers head to LA with momentum. With much speculation as to how the Dodgers would respond to Milwaukee’s bullpen, Dave Roberts is happy with how his team has performed.
“I like our approach,” Roberts said. “I like the position players we run out there. You can’t take anything away from that pen. They’ve done it over the course of the season, and they’re a tough pen for anyone to match up against.”
“But I do believe -- we talked about last night seeing these guys two nights in a row, I think that that plays to our advantage, and you still have to go out there and execute and put at-bats together, and that’s what our guys are doing.”