Brewers chase Kershaw, take opener
MILWAUKEE — The high five at the plate from Brandon Woodruff nearly took out Lorenzo Cain.
It’s not often that reliever hits a home run.
Batting left-handed. Off left-hander Clayton Kershaw. In the playoffs.
Woodruff stunned Kershaw with an early home run and Milwaukee’s normally shutdown bullpen held on — barely — as the Brewers beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 on Friday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Milwaukee earned its 12th straight win, one shy of the franchise record set to open the 1987 season.
Woodruff, of all people, had the momentumswinging hit.
“It’s something obviously coming into the day, you don’t know in your wildest dreams that’s going to happen,” he said.
It was the first time in postseason history that a pitcher homered in a lefty-vs.-lefty matchup. Woodruff understandably was pumped as he rounded the bases.
“He was fired up when he came home. He nearly broke my arm,” Cain said.
Kershaw was chased before he could retire a batter in the fourth inning, allowing five runs and six hits in the shortest postseason start of his career. He had a 4.65 ERA in 10 career appearances, including seven starts, going into Friday.
“Got to do a better of keeping the score close for our guys to have a chance there at the end,” Kershaw said. “It was a tough one. Obviously you don’t want to get your team off to that start.”
The Dodgers scored three times in the eighth to make it 6-4, then nearly tied it in the ninth. Chris Taylor hit an RBI triple off Cain’s glove in deep center field with two outs before Corey Knebel fanned Justin Turner to end it.
Game 2 is Saturday at Miller Park, with Wade Miley pitching for the Brewers against Hyun-Jin Ryu.
The Dodgers did some damage against the Brewers’ bullpen. Milwaukee used seven pitchers, including three scoreless innings from Josh Hader. Woodruff threw two perfect innings and got the win.
“But for us to get a look at these guys out of the ’pen in a seven-game series, I think that’s a good thing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Manny Machado homered and drove in three runs for Los Angeles. The Dodgers committed four errors, including two by catcher Yasmani Grandal, who also had two passed balls.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell’s pitching-by-committee strategy continued to be a hit, at least until the late innings.
Finally, the hardthrowing Knebel restored order by striking out Turner. Knebel walked Joc Pederson with two outs before Taylor’s long drive.
“It’s the postseason and anything can happen, you saw right there. It was a good feeling for it to go our way right there at the end,” Knebel said.
After Milwaukee starter Gio Gonzalez went two innings, nicked by Machado’s home run, Woodruff entered in the top of the third. In the bottom half, Woodruff made a sudden impact — with his bat.
Woodruff became the third relief pitcher to homer in the postseason. He pumped both arms as he rounded first base, while Kershaw turned away and looked down at the ground.
“I knew he could swing the bat a little bit, for sure,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t know he could do that, but I knew he could hit a little bit.”
Woodruff was 4-for-22 (.222) before connecting. He had one previous homer, in July against Pittsburgh’s Nick Kingham.
Milwaukee reliever Brandon Woodruff rounds first after hitting a solo home run off Clayton Kershaw.