Mil­wau­kee wins with new up­dated for­mula

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - MLB -

The Brew­ers just won a play­off se­ries in which they re­ceived a grand to­tal of 122⁄3 in­nings from their start­ing pitch­ers.

They ad­vanced to the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries de­spite scor­ing just 13 runs in the hit­ter-friendly par­adises of Miller Park in Mil­wau­kee and Coors Field in Den­ver.

They will take aim at their first NL pen­nant since 1982 with a 38-year-old backup catcher as their most po­tent of­fen­sive weapon of late, with an “ace” who hasn’t com­pleted six in­nings since Aug. 31 and with a man­ager who looks like he just stepped off an Amer­i­can Le­gion di­a­mond but makes moves with the con­vic­tion and con­fi­dence that his front of­fice’s trove of data pro­vides.

In sweep­ing the Rock­ies — shack­ling them, re­ally, al­low­ing just two runs over three games of their Na­tional League Divi­sion Se­ries — Mil­wau­kee put on a mas­ter class in mod­ern base­ball.

Like it or not, this is how you win in 2018.

Limit your starters’ li­a­bil­ity: The Brew­ers started “opener” Bran­don Woodruff in Game 1, and he pro­vided three score­less in­nings, just enough length to keep their bullpen cal­cu­lus to­gether, and even sur­vive a ninth-in­ning blown save. Nom­i­nal No. 1 starter Jhoulys Chacin pro­vided five score­less in­nings in Game 2 — hey, a start­ing­pitcher win! — and lefty Wade Mi­ley was pulled in the fifth in­ning of a Game 3 shutout in the Oct. 7 6-0 clincher.

Pla­toon like hell: Erik Kratz and Her­nan Perez don’t play ev­ery day but seized op­por­tu­ni­ties when they did. Perez, a .253-hit­ting util­i­ty­man, pro­vided the lone RBI hit in the first seven in­nings of their Game 2 win. Kratz, the 38-year-old catcher with more stamps on his base­ball pass­port than al­most any­one, sat out Game 1 and then made his­tory in Game 2, be­com­ing the old­est po­si­tion player to make his post­sea­son de­but since Lave Cross in 1905. Kratz pro­ceeded to knock out five hits in eight at-bats, in­clud­ing the Game 3 clincher.

Shift like a spine­less politi­cian: The Brew­ers led the Na­tional League in balls in play against de­fen­sive shifts, and in the far smaller sam­ple of the NLDS frus­trated the life out of the Rock­ies. Con­sider that Brew­ers starters Woodruff, Chacin and Mi­ley struck out eight bat­ters in 122⁄3 in­nings. Sure, thanks to power arms in the bullpen, the Brew­ers man­aged 31 strike­outs in 28 in­nings. Yet that still doesn’t fully ac­count for these Rock­ies’ hit­ting num­bers: Trevor Story, 2-for-12; Char­lie Black­mon, 1-for-12; Nolan Are­nado, 2-for-11; DJ Lemahieu, 2-for-9.

The num­ber of ex­tra-base hits for that crew? Two, in­con­se­quen­tial dou­bles by Lemahieu and Story in Game 3, the lat­ter pop­ping out of Chris­tian Yelich’s glove in the ninth in­ning.

It was a to­tal shut­down of an of­fense that trailed only the Dodgers in runs and OPS among NL teams.

Was it aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing? Well, we’re guess­ing the rat­ings for this NLDS won’t ap­proach your aver­age “Law and Or­der: SVU” re­run.

An NLCS against, most likely, the Dodgers should draw more eye­balls. And let’s not for­get the great Yelich — the pre­sumed NL MVP — got the NLDS party started with a two-run homer in Game 1. The Brew­ers wouldn’t be here with­out him, and he will lend them star power against a Dodgers cast that the base­ball world knows all too well af­ter six con­sec­u­tive divi­sion ti­tles and the mid­sea­son ad­di­tion of Manny Machado.

Brew­ers man­ager Craig Coun­sell out­foxed Colorado coun­ter­part Bud Black, who left his closer idled un­til garbage time of Game 3 and opted not to start ace Kyle Free­land on reg­u­lar rest in Game 3.

Now, Coun­sell will likely match wits with the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and, should Mil­wau­kee ad­vance, ei­ther A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora or Aaron Boone in the World Se­ries.

All fit the mold of use­ful to good play­ers in the 1990s, but Coun­sell is the least-her­alded of the bunch as a dugout boss. At 48, he is more than two decades re­moved from scor­ing the Se­ries-de­cid­ing run for the Mar­lins in 1997 yet still looks as young as many of his play­ers.

Don’t be fooled. Coun­sell pushed all the right but­tons in this NLDS. And he’s han­dling a ros­ter put to­gether as if the Brew­ers own the cheat code for mod­ern base­ball.

RUS­SELL LANSFORD/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

The Brew­ers cel­e­brate the sweep of the Rock­ies on Sun­day and ad­vance­ment to the NLCS for the first time since 2011.

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