- Brewers starter Wade Miley turned in a superb outing over 5 2/3 shutout innings—but that's where the good feelings for Milwaukee pitchers stopped. The Dodgers score four runs in the late innings of Game 2 to secure a huge NLCS win.
After Wade Miley strung together 5 2/3 dominant innings to start for the Brewers, everything fell apart for Milwaukee. It relinquished a 3-0 lead in the late innings as a Justin Turner homer clawed the Dodgers all the way back to win Game 2 tie the NLCS, 1-1. Here are three thoughts on the night:
Justin Turner made up for a rough Game 1
“Clutch” is not a verifiable metric nor is it a reliable way to evaluate a player, but Justin Turner is the Dodgers’ most trusted hitter in high-leverage situations. Many Dodgers fans fondly recall his walk-off three-run homer to beat the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS last season. That’s why plenty of observers were surprised when Turner struck out with the tying run on third base in the Dodgers’ 6–5 Game 1 loss, his fourth strikeout of the night and the first time he’d ever struck out four times in a game as a big leaguer. Despite lucking his way into a first-inning single off of Brewers starter Wade Miley, Turner didn’t look terribly comfortable in any of his first three at-bats. That was until his turn came up with Chris Taylor on first base in the top of the eighth inning.
Jeremy Jeffress entered his second inning of work despite throwing 11 pitches the night before and helping the Brewers exit a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning by inducing a double play by Yasmani Grandal. Manager Craig Counsell, who has had a quick hook with every pitcher except Josh Hader throughout the postseason, opted to stick with Jeffress against Turner. An exceptional low ball hitter, Turner turned a flat splitter from Jeffress into a 388-foot two-run home run to leftfield.
It was Turner’s first homer of the 2018 postseason and a hit to energize a Dodgers dugout morose after leaving the bases loaded in the prior inning. After the L.A. lineup struggled to string hits together two nights in a row, it was the biggest hit of a series that Milwaukee looked to be the better team on both nights.
2. Milwaukee is risking bullpen burnout
The common line entering the series was that the Dodgers needed to get to Milwaukee’s relatively weak starting pitchers early before being subject to their bullpen. Two games into the series, it’s the Brewers bullpen that’s been creaky while Miley (and two innings of Gio Gonzalez) have been solid. Miley helped (initially) rest a bullpen that worked seven innings the night before. When Miley was lifted at 74 pitches, he left with a 2–0 lead.
Even though lefty wizard Josh Hader was unavailable after throwing three innings in Game 1, Counsell handed the ball to Corbin Burnes, who walked Max Muncy to start the seventh inning before being tagged for base hits by Manny Machado and Cody Bellinger. Muncy and Machado would score to bring the game to 3–2 before Jeffress surrendered Turner’s go-ahead homer in the eighth.
While Miley and Gonzalez have allowed just two runs over 7 ⅔ innings, the bullpen has allowed eight earned over 10 innings pitched. Both Counsell and Dave Roberts are intent on winning the matchup battle because of the depth they have on their bench and in their bullpen, but Milwaukee’s bullpen is now stretched. Hader threw 46 pitches last night, Jeffress has 39 thrown over two games and Corey Knebel has logged 31 pitches over the last two nights.
3. I can feel the overmanaging in the air tonight
By the seventh inning of Saturday night’s contest, Dave Roberts was out of position players. Instead of having a host of players to choose from, Roberts was forced to pinch-hit Yasmani Grandal, who endured a miserable Game 1, to hit with the bases loaded and one out. Grandal grounded out into a double play.
In the sixth inning, Miley allowed a base hit to Taylor, the first baserunner the Dodgers had since the first inning. Instead of letting him finish the inning, Counsell hooked Miley.
Matchups are the du jour storyline of this series, but it was odd to see Miley going out, who was simply fabulous all night. The veteran lefty struck out only three hitters, but limited the Dodgers to soft contact throughout the afternoon. After centerfielder Lorenzo Cain robbed a David Freese home run in the second inning, Miley didn’t allow any ball hit harder than 97 MPH, which was a routine flyout from Matt Kemp, and retired 16 in a row after Turner’s first-inning bloop single.
So why did Counsell take Miley out? Taylor’s sixth-inning single was only the second hit he’d surrendered all game and the starter was only at 74 pitches. Miley had gone as high as 101 pitches during the season and sat with a relatively comfortable 2–0 lead on Saturday. The move to Burnes was effective—he got Turner to line out to center—but was hit hard when he returned for the seventh.
Roberts’s moves ended up working out, but consider if the Brewers scored Hernan Perez from second base in the ninth inning to tie the game. Leading off the tenth inning would have been the pitcher because the Dodgers were out of position players, and the only remaining relief pitcher was Julio Urias, who has thrown five innings in 2018—his first five innings since 2016.
Playing matchups is usually wise, but one wonders if Milwaukee would have headed for L.A. leading 2–0 if Miley continued into the seventh inning.