Rally comes too late and too short for Dodgers

Mil­wau­kee pitch­ing changes force Dodgers of­fense to ad­just early, and late surge is not enough.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Jorge Castillo jorge.castillo@la­times.com Twit­ter: @jorge­castillo

MIL­WAU­KEE — Some­how, some way, af­ter their fu­ture Hall of Famer gave up a home run to a re­liever, af­ter four er­rors and two passed balls, af­ter Josh Hader plowed through their lineup, the Dodgers had the ty­ing run at third base with two outs at Miller Park on Fri­day night.

Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers closer Corey Knebel stood on the mound. Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ best hit­ter, was in the bat­ter’s box. The Dodgers, gasp­ing for air all night, were still breath­ing in Game 1 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Series.

But Turner struck out to com­plete the first four-strike­out game of his ca­reer, ren­der­ing the Dodgers’ late-game rally — four runs over the fi­nal two in­nings against the Brew­ers’ vaunted bullpen — in­con­se­quen­tial in a 6-5 loss.

“I thought we played an en­tire game,” Dodgers man­ager Dave Roberts said. “I did. For them to use Hader for three in­nings tonight and for us to get a good look at their arms in the ’pen, I thought we had good at-bats all the way un­til the end.”

The prob­lem lay in the mid­dle in­nings in the form of Bran­don Woodruff and Hader. The Dodgers spent the fi­nal month of the reg­u­lar sea­son ro­tat­ing through two dif­fer­ent lineups de­pend­ing on the op­pos­ing start­ing pitcher’s left- or right-hand­ed­ness. The pla­toon­heavy for­mula pro­duced the most runs in base­ball dur­ing the stretch. Its ef­fec­tive­ness was in­dis­putable.

But two fac­tors were work­ing in the Dodgers’ fa­vor: an ex­panded ros­ter and op­pos­ing clubs’ con­ven­tional pitcher us­age. They could count on nei­ther Fri­day night, and they knew it. The Brew­ers were un­abashedly go­ing to rely heav­ily on their bullpen be­cause, sim­ply, their re­liev­ers are sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than their starters. How they de­ployed their pitch­ers dur­ing their sweep of the Colorado Rock­ies in their Na­tional League Divi­sion Series was proof they were com­mit­ted to dis­turb­ing tra­di­tion­al­ist trends. They were poised to con­tinue the ap­proach in the NLCS.

To com­bat the Brew­ers’ trade­mark un­ortho­doxy, the Dodgers fielded a mod­i­fied lineup on Fri­day. It re­mained right-handed heavy with left-han­der Gio Gon­za­lez on the mound, but Cody Bellinger, a left-handed hit­ter who sat against left-handed pitch­ers down the reg­u­lar sea­son’s stretch, started in cen­ter field. The rest was in­tact. David Freese started over Max Muncy at first base, Chris Tay­lor started over Joc Ped­er­son in left field, and Matt Kemp started in right field over Yasiel Puig.

The Brew­ers were in­tent on com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters. Man­ager Craig Coun­sell pulled Gon­za­lez — to his dis­may — af­ter Gon­za­lez gave up a run in two in­nings and in­serted Woodruff, a right-han­der. The Brew­ers’ game plan was clear: They were go­ing to counter the Dodgers’ tal­ent ad­van­tage by max­i­miz­ing the num­ber of matchups in their fa­vor.

Re­plac­ing a left-han­der with a right-han­der so early in the game forced Roberts to make de­ci­sions to counter the Brew­ers’ elite bullpen he’d rather make later in games. The tac­tic tem­po­rar­ily wiped out the Dodgers’ of­fense for five in­nings af­ter Manny Machado’s mis­sile of a home run off Gon­za­lez in the sec­ond.

Woodruff tossed two per­fect in­nings with four strike­outs, cap­i­tal­iz­ing on matchups against Tay­lor and Kemp dur­ing his cruise, while belt­ing a home run off Clay­ton Ker­shaw. Hader fol­lowed to log three score­less frames on a sea­son-high 46 pitches, eclips­ing the 41 he threw on April 6, with four strike­outs.

“Just go out there and get outs,” said Hader, whose heavy work­load will make him un­avail­able for Game 2 on Satur­day. “Give it my all, give 100% to put the team in a good po­si­tion to stay in the lead.”

Hader’s exit gave the Dodgers some oxy­gen. The Dodgers loaded the bases against left-han­der Xavier Ce­deno and right-han­der Joakim So­ria be­fore Jeremy Jef­fress, an­other right-han­der whose 1.23 ERA was tops among Brew­ers re­liev­ers dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, en­tered to face Machado with two outs. Machado lofted a two-run sin­gle off the end of his bat. Kemp then sneaked a ground­ball up the mid­dle to drive in an­other run.

The next matchup was in the Dodgers’ fa­vor: the right-hand­ed­hit­ting Puig, who owns stark re­verse splits, against a righthander. But he struck out swing­ing at a curve­ball in the dirt to end the in­ning.

That at-bat loomed large later when Chris Tay­lor’s two-out RBI triple off Knebel in the ninth pushed the Dodgers within a run. The Dodgers needed one more hit. They had the right man at the plate. But the late-in­ning surge would end there.

“That’s the type of team we are,” Machado said. “We’re go­ing to fight un­til the last out is made. We’re go­ing to grind it all out. That’s what this team is made of. Come to­mor­row, keep grind­ing, keep play­ing. If we can do that, we’re one of the best teams in a game.”

Robert Gauthier Los An­ge­les Times

DODGERS SHORT­STOP Manny Machado homers in the sec­ond in­ning against Mil­wau­kee in Game 1 of the NLCS on Fri­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.