Brewers Shutout Dodgers in Game 3 of NLCS

The last time the Dodgers faced Brewers’ righty Jhoulys Chacin, they teed off on him, en route to 21-5 win. But on the 30th Anniversary of Kirk Gibson‘s World Series Game One heroics, there were no theatrics to be found.

Walker Buehler started the game with a strikeout of Lorenzo Cain, but allowed a subsequent walk to Christian Yelich, which was cashed in on a double by Ryan Braun. Buehler rebounded nicely, though, by striking out Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar.

Dodgers got something brewing in the second. Manny Machado singles, and Cody Bellinger hits into what might’ve been a double-play but Machado slid hard, (and high, according to the Brewers), breaking up the play. Yasiel Puig finally got his first hit of the postseason with a double, putting runners at second and third with one out. Yasmani Grandal, still having a rough time at the plate, struck out. The Brewers walked Kiké Hernandez to bring Buehler to the plate. It worked, as Buehler struck out looking.

Los Angeles tried to get something going again in the bottom of the fourth, when Machado walked to start the inning. Bellinger, as in the inning before, hit into a fielder’s choice. And once again, Machado made a suspect slide into second. This time, it was reviewed and both he and Bellinger were called out. Puig hit a liner hard, but right at the third baseman and the Dodgers got nothing across the plate.

Grandal finally broke through with a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth, but was left stranded at second base. A questionable strike call that should’ve been a walk led to Joc Pederson flying out to center to end the inning.

Buehler was still throwing well, until two out in the top of the sixth when Bellinger misplayed a fly ball off the bat of Travis Shaw, allowing him to get to third, and then score on a wild pitch.

Once again in the sixth, the Dodgers got a runner to second in the form of Justin Turner. An error by Mike Moustakas allowed JT to get to second, and it chased Chacín from the game. Corey Knebel came in to relieve him, and got the next two batters to end the inning.

Dave Roberts opted to stay with Buehler in the top of the seventh, and the plan didn’t pan out. He allowed a one-out double to Erik Kratz, and a two run homer to Orlando Arcia for a 4-0 lead. The Dodgers responded by striking out in order in the bottom of the seventh.

The Brewers threatened again in the top of the ninth against Dylan Floro, but the inning ended on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out play to second.

The Dodgers loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but again it was not meant to be. The Dodgers failed to score and lost 4-0. Whether Roberts should’ve left Bueheler in the game is up for debate, but it doesn’t much matter when the offense couldn’t score a single run. Overall, the Dodgers were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Game 4 will see Rich Hill face off against Gio Gonzalez for Milwaukee on Tuesday, 6:09 PST.

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Dodgers Bullpen: Pedro Baez Has Finally Arrived

Although it took many years of patience from Dodgers management alongside endless moments of booing from the Los Angeles faithful, Pedro Baez has finally emerged as one of the club’s most trustworthy relievers.

Saturday night’s 1-1/3 innings of relief may have been one of his most impressive appearances to date. Although he walked one batter, he didn’t allow a single hit, shutting down the Brewers when the Dodgers needed it the most. Some pundits believe that it’s the effectiveness of his slider and changeup that has made the difference, but to me, it certainly appears that his self-confidence has elevated his game tremendously. He’s not pensive in the least—he wants to be given the ball in the game’s most critical moments, it seems.

“’I feel good to have won their confidence,” Baez told reporters recently. “I feel good. I just got to keep working every day and pushing to move forward.”

A converted third baseman, Baez made his big league debut in 2014 when he was equipped with a fastball that was a straight as an arrow and a slider that was very rough in composition. Scouts were impressed with his heat, though, so much so that he became a regular part of the relief crew the following year. Over the past few seasons, there were indeed some rough points, so many that a number of folks close to the club wondered when the team would cut ties with the 30-year-old righty.

His 2017 campaign seemed to show a bit of improvement, yet his peripheral numbers were still on the downside. Despite his 2.95 ERA, his FIP was an ugly 4.44 and his walk rate was still astronomically high at 4.1 BB/9. Still, knowing his ceiling was definitely on the high side, management stuck by him. The only question was if the investment would ever pay off. Many followers thought not.

“We felt strongly that this version of Pedro Baez was the best we had ever seen,” Dodgers’ boss Andrew Friedman said at the time. “And as we’re saying that to ourselves he was struggling. But just believing in his makeup, his right arm, and the weapons that he possessed at that time, we felt confident that he would get through it.”

Although Baez gave the impression of being the same shell of himself through most of 2018, he began to dramatically turn things around during the latter part of the summer. While he had a 4.14 ERA through early August, he posted a 0.38 ERA from August 13 until the end of the regular season. What’s more, from September 11 through the final regular-season game on October 1, the righty didn’t allow a single run while only allowing three hits. During that stretch, some argued that he was the most successful reliever in the majors.

As far as the 2018 postseason goes, Baez has already made four key appearances between both the NLDS and the NLCS. Through those four games, he has thrown 4-2/3 innings, striking out five while allowing just two walks and one hit. As the latter part of the NLCS approaches, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s used in the highest leverage scenarios, perhaps even throwing in the high-stress eighth-inning hold situations.

It’s quite remarkable how much things changed over the course of a single year. Although he was a member of the 2017 NLDS roster, he didn’t throw a single pitch in the series. Subsequently, he was left off the NLCS roster against the Cubs and the World Series roster against the Astros.

Yet, as well as his secondary pitches have emerged to compliment his fastball, he’s equipped with one other weapon that will be enormously valuable in his efforts moving forward—belief in his own personal ability to succeed.

 

In Dramatic Fashion, Dodgers Overcome Brewers in Game 2 of NLCS

A late home-run from Justin Turner gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a come-from-behind victory over the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in game two of the 2018 NLCS. The series is now tied 1-1.

Heading into the game, one of the key questions was how Craig Counsell was going to handle his bullpen after pitching Josh Hader three innings in Game 1, basically leaving him unavailable for game two.

For the second consecutive game, the Brewers went with a lefty starting pitcher, most likely to force the Dodgers to start off the game with left-handed power bats like Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, and Cody Bellinger on the bench.

Wade Miley took the mound after the Brewers bullpen was immensely taxed in the opening game of the series.

Austin Barnes got the start at catcher after Yasmani Grandal had a nightmarish performance behind the plate in Game 1.

Hyun-Jin Ryu got the start on the hill for the Dodgers coming off throwing seven shutout innings in game 1 of the NLDS.

Yasiel Puig was in right field despite hitting just .197 against left-handed pitchers during the regular season.

Dave Roberts usually started an outfield trio of Chris Taylor, Kike Hernandez, and Matt Kemp against lefties towards the end of the regular season. That lineup would shift Hernandez to center field from second base, and Brian Dozier would, in turn, get the start at second.

In game two against the Brewers, though, Roberts kept Hernandez at second base, opting to put Puig in right field, Taylor in center field, Kemp in left field, and have Dozier be an option off the bench.

The Brewers made some slight changes to their own lineup, deciding to start Travis Shaw at second base after starting Hernan Perez at second for game one and Erik Katz at catcher after going with Manny Pina behind the plate in game one.

A jolt of energy ignited the crowd early when Lorenzo Cain robbed a would-be two-run David Freese homer in the top of the first inning to keep the game scoreless.

It was a pitcher’s duel through the first half of the game, with both Ryu and Miley dominating their opposing batting orders.

The first run of the game wasn’t scored until the bottom of the fifth when Orlando Arcia hit a solo homer off Ryu. Arcia had just three home runs during the regular season, and his shot against Ryu was the first he had hit this year off a starting pitcher.

Arcia also hit a home run in game three of the NLDS against the Rockies, and the shortstop looks like he’s finding his pop at the right time of the year.

The wheels started to fall off a bit for Ryu after giving up the Arcia homer. He proceeded to allow a single to Miley and a double to Cain.

Roberts decided to yank Ryu at that point, inserting Ryan Madson into the game with runners on second and third with one out. Madson issued the intentional walk to Christian Yelich, which brought Ryan Braun to the plate with the bases loaded. Braun hit a slow chopper to shortstop and Manny Machado had to settle for just one out by getting Braun at first.

Miley scored on the fielder’s choice and the Brewers lead climbed to 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the fifth with runners on second and third.

Madson struck out Jesus Aguilar to get out of the inning without further damage. Ryu would be charged with the Miley run, and he finished with six hits and two earned runs allowed in 4.1 innings.

After Miley gave up a single to Chris Taylor with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Craig Counsell pulled him for Corbin Burnes. Miley was outstanding, finishing with just two hits given up and no earned runs allowed in 5.2 innings of work.

Burnes faced Justin Turner with two outs and a runner on first, and Burnes got Turner to fly out to center field to end the inning.

With Mike Moustakas and Travis Shaw due up in the bottom of the sixth, left-handed thrower Alex Wood came into the game as the next reliever. Wood got Moustakas to strike out but gave up a home run to Shaw to center field to extend the Brewers lead to 3-0. Out of the 32 homers Shaw hit during the regular season, just two of them came off left-handed pitchers, who he also hit just .209 against.

What made it even more unusual was that in 168 at-bats against lefties during the regular season, Wood didn’t give up any homers.

Wood got the hook immediately after giving up the home run to Shaw, and Dylan Floro came into the game with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Floro got Kratz to ground out on his first pitch thrown and then got Arcia to line out to left field to end the inning.

The Dodgers offense got going in the top of the seventh. Max Muncy walked to lead off the inning, and that was followed by a single from Machado.

Stepping to the plate for his first at-bat and representing the tying run, Bellinger singled to center, bringing home Muncy.

That was it for Burnes, who exited the game after going 0.1 innings and allowing two hits, a walk, and an earned run.

Jeremy Jeffress came into the game facing a stressful situation. There were no outs in the top of the seventh with runners on second and first. Pederson came to the plate representing the go-ahead run and hit a blooper into right field for a single to load the bases with no outs.

Puig came up with a chance to do some serious damage. Essentially anything but a pop-up or infield line-out would score at least one run. Jeffress got Puig to strikeout. However, Barnes drew a walk the next at-bat to cut the Brewers lead to just 3-2.

Grandal stepped to the plate for his first at-bat with a chance for redemption after struggling defensively in game one. Grandal grounded into a double play, though, and the Brewers got out of the inning still clinging to a 3-2 lead.

Pedro Baez entered the game for the Dodgers in the bottom of the seventh. He issued a walk to Cain, but a potentially rough inning was averted when Bellinger slid to make a nice catch on a fly ball hit by Braun to end the inning.

Taylor led off the top of the eighth with an infield single on a slow roller to third, which set the table for Turner to leave his imprint. Turner gave the Dodgers their first lead of the game by smacking a two-run homer down the left field line off Jeffress.

That promptly chased Jeffress from the game, who finished with two earned runs allowed on three hits and a walk in one inning.

Corey Knebel came in to face Muncy with the bases empty and nobody out. Muncy singled, but Knebel got Machado to hit into a double play. Knebel completed his cleanup of the rough Jeffress inning by getting the final out when Bellinger popped up to Arcia.

Baez began the bottom of the eighth by striking out Domingo Santana, and then the switch was made to bring Caleb Ferguson in to pitch. Ferguson walked Moustakas to put the tying run on first with Shaw coming to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Shaw grounded into a fielder’s choice, and that was the final batter Ferguson faced. Kenta Maeda was brought into the game.

Curtis Granderson pinch-hit for Kratz when Maeda took the hill. Granderson hit a ball to the warning track in right field that was caught by Puig to end the inning.

Xavier Cedeno started the ninth inning for the Brewers. He was pulled after just one batter, giving up a ground ball single to Pederson.

Junior Guerra came into pitch with no outs in the top of the ninth and a runner of first. He got Puig to hit into a double play and then struck out Barnes.

Kenley Jansen came in for the bottom of the ninth to try to get the save and help the Dodgers tie this series up.

Jansen got Arcia to pop out for the first out, but then walked Perez to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Cain.

Jansen got Cain to strike out, and likely NL MVP Christian Yelich came to the plate as the last hope for the Brewers with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Perez stole second base on a 0-2 pitch to Yelich, which put the tying run in scoring position with the Brewers down to their last strike.

Yelich grounded out to Turner to give the Dodgers the win and tie the series at 1-1 after a thrilling Game 2.

 

Brewers Hold Off Dodgers in Game 1 of NLCS

The narrative for the NLCS before the game was the Brewers pitching matchups against the Dodgers‘ ability to use their bench. However, it ultimately boiled down to errors on the side of the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw failing to go deep into a playoff game again.

After a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, who then advanced to second on a passed ball by Yasmani Grandal, Kershaw battled through a 10-pitch strikeout to Yelich, and retired the next two batters on grounders to short.

Manny Machado led off the bottom of the second with a home run, a laser to left center field that just cleared the wall. It was his second this season off a curveball, and his hardest hit ever, 116 MPH off the bat.

Starter Gio Gonzalez lasted all of two innings, allowing the homer to Machado and a walk to Kiké Hernandez. RHP Brandon Woodruff replaced him in the top of the third. He retired the side, and then promptly hit a 407 foot homer in the bottom of the third off Kershaw to tie the game at one.

Grandal had a horrid night behind the plate. Cain followed with a single, and Kershaw walked Yelich. A second passed ball allowed the runners to move to second and third, and a catcher’s interference negated an amazing catch by David Freese for what would’ve been the second out of the inning. Kershaw then induced a sac fly by Hernan Perez, and Grandal missed the throw from center allowing the runners to advance. Kershaw struck out Mike Moustakis to end the inning.

Woodruff countered by striking out the side, including Roberts’ first countermove of the evening, replacing Freese with Max Muncy.

After a leadoff walk and a misplayed ball in left field by Chris Taylor, the Brewers had runners at second and third with no outs, and 73 pitches though 3.0 innings. Kershaw allowed a two run single to Domingo Santana, and Kershaw’s night was done.

Ryan Madson entered the game with a runner on first. He induced a fly out to Cain, and struck out Yelich. After a stolen base by Santana, Madson allowed a single to Braun scoring Santana, and taking the score to 5-1.

Josh Hader, reliever extraordinaire, came in the top of the fifth, and promptly retired the side on nine pitches. He pitched three scoreless innings, presumably leaving him out of the bullpen mix for Game 2.

Julio Urías, added to the bullpen in place of Scott Alexander, who is presumed to be injured, surrendered an opposite field home run to Jesús Aguilar.

The Dodgers showed signs of life in the top of the eighth, plating three runs on a two run single by Machado and an RBI single by Matt Kemp, bringing the score to 6-4.

The Dodgers somehow managed to hold Yelich 0-for-4 for the game, the only slot in the lineup that didn’t have a hit. Cain, for his part, reached all four times.

The Dodgers rallied in the ninth, getting one more run across the plate, but ultimately fell short. But good things were to be gained from this game. They got to the bullpen, and Hader should not be available in Game 2. If the Dodgers play clean baseball defensively, they may have won this game.

Game 2 will be Saturday at 1:09 pacific time, when the Brewers will send Wade Miley to the mound to face off against Walker Buehler.

 

5 Specific Things Dodgers Fans Should Watch Throughout 2018 NLCS

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For some fans, it already seems like an eternity since their beloved Dodgers have actually played a game. The club’s victory in Game 4 on Monday afforded the squad a very much deserved three full days of rest before setting their sights on Milwaukee and the NL Central champion Brewers. Nevertheless, the time has finally arrived for both teams to commence battle. Heading into Friday’s opener, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight five potential storylines which Los Angeles fans should keep an eye on as the series progresses.

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Series Preview: Dodgers & Brewers Prepare for Battle in 2018 NLCS

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The Los Angeles Dodgers have advanced to the NLCS after beating the Atlanta Braves 3-1 in their NLDS matchup. The two games in Atlanta were a bit more stressful than the games in Los Angeles, but the Dodgers still found a way to shove aside a Braves squad whose time hasn’t quite come yet but look poised to compete in the NL for the next handful of years with their intriguing young nucleus of players.

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A Few More Random Thoughts Ahead of the 2018 NLCS

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As the Dodgers embark upon the next stage of their 2018 postseason quest, the landscape seems to be in great shape in terms of team dynamics, as the squad will have three full days to recover before firing the engines back up in Milwaukee.

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Dodgers Defeat Braves in Game 4, Advance to 2018 NLCS

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The Los Angeles Dodgers have completed the first step in their quest to return to the World Series, defeating the Atlanta Braves three games to one in the NLDS. All six of the Dodgers’ runs were driven in by acquisitions they made at the summer trade deadlines.

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Braves Edge Dodgers in NLDS Game 3

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Unlike the relative monotony of the first two contests, Game 3 of the NLDS on Sunday evening had plenty of action for fans of both clubs to appreciate. Ultimately, it was Atlanta who prevailed, as the Braves secured a 6-5 victory and forced a Game 4 on Monday afternoon in Atlanta.

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Up Two Games, Dodgers Hope Buehler Can Close NLDS Door in Atlanta

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The Dodgers have cruised to a 2-0 lead in the NLDS over the Atlanta Braves and find themselves just one win away from advancing to the NLCS.

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