The Dodgers had their hands full with the bevy of Brewers relievers, but did just enough on offense to back a tandem effort from a pair of rotation mates to win Game 1 of the wild card series, 4-2 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.
Mookie Betts doubled in each of his first two at-bats, scoring in the first and driving in a run in the second. Betts had the 22nd postseason game by a Dodger with multiple doubles, finishing one shy of the franchise record, set by Jim Gilliam in Game 4 of the 1953 World Series.
Corey Seager added some insurance with a home run in the seventh, widening the lead after seven strong innings from the Dodgers starters. Plural.
Walker Buehler struck out two in every inning he pitched, but amid concerns of that blister on his right index finger he was removed after four innings. Still, the eight strikeouts matched his postseason high, done also in Game 3 of the 2018 NLCS and Game 1 of the 2019 NLDS.
Buehler induced 15 swinging strikes in this one, his second-most in a start this season.
He got hit around a little bit though in the fourth inning, with a Daniel Vogelbach double to lead off the frame and an Orlando Arcia home run to pull Milwaukee within a run. The Arcia home run came on an 0-2 pitch, Buehler’s first homer allowed in that count this season.
Buehler didn’t necessarily have any problems with the blister in Game 1, though it did affect his pitch mix a bit. He threw six cutters in his 73 pitches (8.2 percent), a pitch he threw 15.2 percent of the time during the season.
“We’ve talked about the cutter probably being toughest on it, so I mostly threw the four-seam, the slider, and the curveball tonight,” Buehler said. “It is what it is. We’re managing it, and moving on.”
Julio Urías followed and followed suit, striking out two in both the fifth and sixth innings, then settled for a measly one strikeout in the seventh. Urías induced 11 swinging strikes, his third-most in a game this season, made even more remarkable since he only pitched three innings.
Manager Dave Roberts said it wasn’t planned for Buehler to pitch four innings and Urías three, but the game circumstances led to that allocation of innings. Urías knew beforehand he might pitch in this game, and stayed ready.
“I actually had no idea what the plan was,” Urías said through a translator. “I knew I had to go out there, attack, and fight and try to go as deep as possible.”
Dodgers pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts on the night, tying their most in a nine-inning postseason game.
A wild start
Brent Suter only walked five of his 129 batters faced all season, the ninth-best walk rate among MLB pitchers with at least 30 innings this season. But he walked four of his eight batters in the first inning, throwing only nine of his 32 pitches for strikes. Suter was lucky to escape the frame only allowing two runs — both walked home — as the Dodgers left the bases loaded.
The last time he walked more than one in an inning was June 3, 2018, when he walked two. His only other game walking four was August 12, 2017, when he pitched five innings.
Suter rebounded by throwing 12 of his 19 pitches in the second inning for strikes, but Chris Taylor and Betts pounced, both hitting doubles to score another run. Suter’s career-worst fifth walk of the night came to his 13th batter, and ended his night.
“The first inning was huge for us,” Seager said. “We took our walks and scratched some runs, then in the second we hit back-to-back doubles. That’s how you win a lot of games.”
Brent Suter: “I threw two innings but it felt like I threw eight”— Andrew Wagner (@ByAndrewWagner) October 1, 2020
In those first two innings, the Dodgers had seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. Betts’ double was the only hit, though all five walks from Suter were with RISP.
“We really had Suter on the ropes, but couldn’t really break it open early,” Roberts said. “We were close.”
The Dodgers didn’t have another at-bat with runners in scoring position until the eighth.
Jace Peterson coaxed a two-out walk from Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning, bringing Christian Yelich to the plate as the tying run. Jansen threw eight cutters in his 16 pitches, none reaching 90 mph, after averaging 90.9 mph on the pitch during the regular season.
“It was good to see him get the job done, but it just didn’t seem like his stuff had the teeth that I’ve seen in recent outings,” Roberts said. “I’m going to go back and look at the video.”
Jansen recovered to strike out Yelich to end it, inducing the final two swinging strikes on a four-seam fastball and a cutter at 89.9 mph, his fastest cutter of the night.
Game 1 info
Home runs: Corey Seager (1); Orlando Arcia (1)
WP — Julio Urías (1-0): 3 IP, 3 hits, 5 strikeouts
LP — Brent Suter (0-1): 1⅔ IP, 3 hits, 3 runs, 5 walks
Sv — Kenley Jansen (1): 1 IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
The Dodgers go for the sweep on Wednesday night (7:08 p.m., ESPN), with Clayton Kershaw starting Game 2, facing off against Brandon Woodruff for the Brewers in a playoff rematch of Games 1 and 5 of the 2018 NLCS.