Milwaukee wins with new updated formula
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.
The Brewers celebrate the sweep of the Rockies on Sunday and advancement to the NLCS for the first time since 2011.