MILWAUKEE (AP) — Build an early lead, get five good innings out of the starter and bring in the bullpen.
The Milwaukee Brewers used that formula to win 11 straight games going into the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Clayton Kershaw could be the ace that finally puts a stop to the streak.
The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner will start for Los Angeles in Game 1 on Friday night at Miller Park.
“We know we’re not going to get a ton of opportunities” against Kershaw and Dodgers starting pitching, outfielder Ryan Braun said. “So we’ve talked about the importance of cashing in on the opportunities we do get.”
Once the Brewers take a lead, they’re hard to beat. Good luck getting to their lights-out bullpen.
Milwaukee’s 3.47 ERA in relief was second in the NL only to the Chicago Cubs. The bullpen went 2-0 with a save and a 1.17 ERA in the three-game Division Series sweep Colorado.
Corey Knebel can come in as soon as the fifth, usually lights-out left-hander Josh Hader in just about situation and Jeremy Jeffress in the late innings. All three relievers are capable of closing.
Knebel and Hader are making their postseason debuts, while Jeffress’ playoff experience before this year was limited to just one inning in 2016 with Texas.
“I thought it was going to be a lot different,” Knebel said Thursday of the playoffs. “The first time I came in, I felt the same surprisingly . ... Hey’s it’s just another game. That’s all it is. You just want to keep playing ball.”
The spotlight probably won’t faze the Dodgers, who are in a third straight NLCS for the first time in franchise history. The strategy at the plate doesn’t change, either, just because Milwaukee’s relievers are so good.