What a relief: Dodgers next up for Brew­ers’ lights-out ‘pen

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - By Ge­naro C. Ar­mas

MIL­WAU­KEE >> 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.

Knebel, Hader and Jef­fress, along with righty Joakim So­ria, ap­peared in all three games against Colorado spread out over four days.

The NLCS is best-of­seven, with the first four games over five days, so bullpen us­age could dif­fer.

“When you’re talk­ing about a seven-game se­ries,” Dodgers man­ager Dave Roberts said, “hav­ing those guys go to their

‘pen and tax­ing them and beat­ing the starter, there’s still a lot of value in that.”

Chas­ing the starter will re­quire build­ing an early lead that might re­quire the Brew­ers to dip into his bullpen ear­lier or more of­ten than planned.

“If they go bullpen game, like they did against the Rock­ies, it’s a seven-game set,” Dodgers in­fielder Max Muncy said. “It’s more games you’re putting stress on the bullpen.”

Other notes and things to watch: UN­FIN­ISHED >> Pres­sure in the NLCS? Maybe not for the Dodgers, who lost Game 7 of the World Se­ries to the Hous­ton Astros a year ago. Now that’s pres­sure.

“We want to fin­ish off what we didn’t fin­ish off last year. That’s been their fo­cus since af­ter that Game 7,” Roberts said. “We’re in a po­si­tion right now where we can give our­selves an op­por­tu­nity to get back there.” MVP WATCH >> Out­fielder Chris­tian Yelich, mak­ing his post­sea­son de­but, hit .250 with a homer and two RBIs with two steals in the NLDS. The smooth-hit­ting left-han­der went on a tear in the sec­ond half, hit­ting .367 af­ter the All-Star break with 25 homers to help lift the Brew­ers to the NL Cen­tral crown.

When the se­ries shifts to Dodger Sta­dium next week, the south­ern Cal­i­for­nia

na­tive will be play­ing in a park where he used to watch games as a child. START IT UP >> No bullpen day to open up the se­ries for the Brew­ers. Mil­wau­kee is go­ing with left-han­der Gio Gon­za­lez to op­pose Ker­shaw in Game 1 on Fri­day night. For Gon­za­lez, it has been quite a re­bound since be­ing ac­quired in a deal with the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als, go­ing 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts with Mil­wau­kee.

“So to sit here, and I’m pitch­ing Game 1 of the sec­ond round, I think it’s re­mark­able, pretty in­cred­i­ble,” Gon­za­lez said, “and hope­fully I get to tell my kids about this one day.”

An 11-year vet­eran, Gon­za­lez is 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six ca­reer starts against the Dodgers. CY KER­SHAW >> One of the tough­est left-han­ders in base­ball, Ker­shaw (9-5, 2.73) hasn’t been quite as good in his ca­reer in the NLCS. He is 2-4 with a 4.65 ERA in five ca­reer starts in this round. BACK WHERE IT STARTED >> The NLCS will be­gin in the park where All-Star Manny Machado made his Dodgers’ de­but. Af­ter Machado was ac­quired at the Al­lS­tar break from the Ori­oles, the Dodgers opened up the sec­ond half of the sea­son at Miller Park.

Machado has hit .273 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs in 66 games with the Dodgers.

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