The Brewers further cemented their status as National League darlings on Friday afternoon, rolling over the Rockies, 4-0, at Miller Park to move within one win of the NLCS. The series now takes a turn for Coors Field, where things could get very weird, very fast, but Milwaukee took care of business in its own park. Here are three thoughts from Game 2:
Clutch Hits Have Brewers on Cusp of NLCS
Much has been said about the Rockies' invisible offense this series, but the Brewers haven't exactly been worldbeaters with their bats. They mustered only two runs in regulation during Game 1 before pushing across a game-winning run in the 10th. For much of Game 2, Milwaukee had only one run of support—via a ground-rule double from Hernan Perez in the fourth—to lean on. The hosts were asking for a repeat of Game 1 with virtually no margin for error. Then a breakthrough arrived in the eighth inning.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs for Mike Moustakas, who had scored the game's only run at that point. He lined a middle-middle meatball from Rockies righthander Seungwan Oh into right to double the Brewers' lead to two. After a pair of key strikeouts, light-hitting catcher Erik Kratz came to the plate and delivered a crushing blow. Rather, a crushing nudge, we'll call it. He dunked a single into leftfield that scored a pair of runs only because there were two outs, building an insurmountable 4-0 lead and putting the Brewers three outs from a 2-0 series lead.
Brewers Avoid Bullpenning (for one game, at least)
Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacín shined on short rest (facing his former team of five years, no less). Only three days removed from shutting down the Cubs over 5 1/3 innings, allowing only one run in that NL Central-deciding Game 163, the righthander delivered another key performance when Milwaukee (and specifically its bullpen) needed it. He shut out the Rockies' feeble bats over five innings, stranding a pair of baserunners in the first and third innings before the Brewers gave Chacín a one-run cushion to cling to in the fourth.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell didn't resist too long before tossing the keys to his treasure trove of bullpen arms after the fifth. First came righthander Corey Knebel, who posted a clean sixth inning while notching two strikeouts. Veteran righty Joakim Soria negotiated trouble in the seventh (see below) by getting two outs before Josh Hader finished off the frame with the biggest out of the game. And just a day after imploding in the ninth inning during Game 1, Counsell tabbed closer Jeremy Jeffress once more late in a tight game. He allowed a single in an otherwise uneventful eighth, and finished off the Brewers' first postseason shutout since the 1982 World Series in the ninth.
Rockies' Bats Remain Homesick
No sequence of events better encapsulated Colorado's offensive struggles than the top of the seventh inning. Facing a 1-0 deficit in the seventh, the Rockies put a man on third with no outs via an Ian Desmond single, stolen base and errant throw that allowed him to reach third base. To that point, the Rockies had scored only four runs in their last 29 innings. The Brewers' elite relief corps ensured that number stayed at four.
Soria struck out Chris Iannetta on three pitches, leaving Colorado's catcher so infuriated he snapped his bat over his knee while trudging back to the dugout. That brought up veteran slugger Matt Holliday, who hardly intimidates like he did in his former Rockies life. Soria whiffed him on three pitches. Charlie Blackmon stood in as seemingly the last hope, never mind that it was only the seventh inning, and Counsell turned to his top option in Hader. Blackmon turned around a 97.5 mph fastball and scorched one right into the glove of second baseman Travis Shaw. Crisis averted on one end. Frustration boiling over on the other.