The Real McCoy

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy shares his thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds
Caption

McCoy: Brewers beat Kershaw, Dodgers to take 1-0 series lead in NLCS

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after eating too much at the Our Lady of the Rosary fish fry, by far the best fish fry in the Dayton area (And no it is not because Nadine teaches at OLR, the fish is scrumptious).

—Raise your hand if your neighborhood palm reader told you all this would happen in Game 1 of the National League Champiponship Series in Miller Park:

Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw would last only three innings and give up five runs and six hits, LA catcher Yasmani Grandal would commit two passed balls and make an error, LA would commit three errors in the first four innings, Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Brandon Woodruff would pitch two perfect innings and strike out the side, then hit a home run?

If the palm reader saw all that, then ask her what numbers to play on a roulette wheel and head for Las Vegas, because all that happened Friday night as the Brewers used it all to score a 6-5 victory.

Maybe it wasn’t such a shocker. The Brewers, with manager Craig Counsell making more masterful moves than chess master Bobby Fischer, have won 12 straight games.

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But it wasn’t that easy. The Brewers led, 6-1, after seven innings. The Dodgers scored three in the eighth, one in the ninth and had the tying run on third base with two outs before Corey Knebel struck out Justin Turner to end it. 

—The odds seemed stacked against the Brewers. The were facing Clayton Kershaw, who is to pitching what Doug Kershaw once was to the fiddle. Kershaw began the game 7-1 for his career in the postseason and the Los Dodgers had won nine of the 11 games he started.

Meanwhile, for Milwaukee it was another of those bullpen games, with Gio Gonzalez starting, but not expected to go more than once through the Dodgers batting order.

—Gonzalez began the game by striking out Chris Taylor and went 1-2-3. In contrast, Lorenzo Cain singled off Kershaw to open the bottom of the first and thus began a nightmare for Grandal, a No. 1 draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds.
His passed ball permitted Cain to go to second, but his real misery didn’t come until a couple of innings later.

It took Kershaw 10 pitches, but he struck out Christian Yelich and escaped the first inning by retiring Ryan Braun and Jesus Aguilar – A 23-pitch inning, but no damage.

—Manny Machado, the much-ballyhooed shortstop the Dodgers acquired after the All-Star break from the Baltimore Orioles, led the second inning with a line drive home run.

—As expected, Gonzalez was taken down quickly, after two innings, replaced by Brandon Woodruff, and oh what a replacement that turned out to be.

First, he retired the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the third. That wasn’t what he did best, though. He led off the bottom of the third with a game-tying home run, the first home run by a left handed relief pitcher ever hit off a left handed pitcher in a postseason game. And it was the first home run hit by a Milwaukee pitcher in the postseason since Lew Burdette in the 1958 World Series against the New York Yankees. And Milwaukee was not the Brewers, they were the Braves.

—Woodruff’s home run was a precursor of what was to come, a nightmare for catcher Grandal. Cain singled to center and Yelich walked. Both runners moved up a base on Grandal’s second passed ball of the game. That put Cain on third base. Then, incredibly, Grandal was charged with catcher’s interference (an error) when his glove hit Jesus Aguilar’s bat on a swing. That gave Aguilar first base, loading the bases with one out.

Hernan Perez hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Cain from third for a 2-1 Milwaukee lead.

—Pitcher Woodruff, the adrenaline pumping like a gasoline pump, proceeded to strike out the side in the top of the fourth — pinch-hitter Max Muncy, Manny Machado and Matt Kemp.

—The Brewers put Miller Park into a frenzy in the bottom of the fourth, getting rid of Kershaw while scoring three runs.

Kershaw walked Manny Pina to open the inning. Orlando Arcia singled and Pina took third on left fielder Cody Belliinger’s error. Pinch-hitter Domingo Santana singled to left field for two runs as Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell’s moves continued to be magical.

That was the end for Kershaw, his shortest ever postseason start, replaced by Ryan Madson, the pitcher who was paid an entire season by the Cincinnati Reds without throwing a pitch because Madson was hurt in spring training and couldnt pitch all year. And Madson is the pitcher who hit Joey Votto this season, knocking him onto the disabled list for three weeks.

With one out, Santana was thrown out at second base trying to steal, a slight lift for catcher Grandal. It was short-lived. Replay/Review revealed Machado missed the tag and Santana was ruled safe.

Madson struck out Yelich for the second out, but Ryan Braun singled and Santana scored from second and the Brewers were on top, 5-1.

—Counsell wasn’t messing around in this one. He brought in Josh Hader for the fifth inning, the flame-throwing left hander who usually doesn’t see the mound until the eighth or ninth innings. Hader went 1-2-3, striking out two. Woodruff and Hader struck out five of the six hitters they faced in the fourth and fifth.

Hader pitched the sixth and gave up a single but struck out two more — four in two innings. And Counsell permitted Hader to bat in the sixth so he could pith the seventh.
Hader weakened a tad in the seventh. He gave up a one-out single to Matt Kemp, threw a wild pitch and didn’t strike anybody out. But he got three outs with no damage. His three innings consisted of 46 pitches, the most he has thrown in a game this season.

—Julio Urias was LA’s fifth pitcher and the first batter he faced in the seventh, Jesus Aguilar, crushed a home run to right field, rthe 12th opposite field home run of the year by Aguilar, and it gave Milwaukee a 6-1 lead.

—The Dodgers finally spliced together a threat in the eighth inning, loading the bases with two outs against Joakim Soria, forcing Counsell to make another key decisions with Manny Machado at the plate, knowing one big swing would bring the Dodgers to within one run.

Counsell brought in his closer, eight-game winner Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress slipped two breaking pitches past Machado, but on 2-and-2 offering Machado blooped a breaking pitch into left field for two runs and it was 6-4. On the next pitch Matt Kemp singled to left and it was 6-4 and the potential tying run was at first base.

LA manager Dave Roberts sent Yasiel Puig up as a pinch-hitter and Puig, who likes to kiss his bat, kissed the rally good-bye by striking out.

—Corey Knebel was called upon by Counsell to close the book on this one in the ninth. Knebel was 16 for 19 in save situations this season. Cody Bellinger beat out an infield hit to second base but the Brewers caught another break. Replay/Review revealed Bellinger was out.
Grandal finished his ever-forgettable night by striking out. Joc Pederson worked the count to 3-and-2 and walked, bringing the potential tying run to the plate, Chris Taylor.

The medical staff ran to the mound to check on Knebel after the last pitch to Pederson. He convinced them he was all right. On his first pitch, Taylor whaled it off the right center wall, off Lorenzo Cain’s glove, a triple to make it 6-5 and put the tying run at third base. That left it up to Justin Turner and the big redhead with the scraggly beard struck out for the fourth time.

 

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