Too close for com­fort

Brew­ers hang on to take 1-0 lead in the se­ries

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports - Todd Rosiak

The Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers ma­chine just keeps on chug­ging along.

Re­vi­tal­ized by a four-day break and more than up to the task against ace Clay­ton Ker­shaw, the Brew­ers re­mained un­de­feated in the post­sea­son and ran their over­all win­ning streak to 12 games by hold­ing on to de­feat the Los An­ge­les Dodgers, 6-5, in Game 1 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries at Miller Park on Fri­day night.

The of­fense chased Ker­shaw af­ter just three in­nings, with an im­prob­a­ble home run by re­liever Bran­don Woodruff get­ting Mil­wau­kee on the board. Four more runs span­ning the third and fourth pro­vided some breath­ing room, and the Brew­ers once again uti­lized an all­hands-on-deck pitch­ing per­for­mance to fin­ish it off.

The NLCS vic­tory was Mil­wau­kee's first since Oct. 13, 2011 and ran their 2018 post­sea­son record to 4-0. A vic­tory in Game 2 on Satur­day af­ter­noon would tie the Brew­ers' fran­chise record of 13 straight, which was first ac­com­plished in 1987.

What had been a fairly com­fort­able 6-1 Brew­ers lead was whit­tled down quickly in the game's fi­nal two in­nings.

The Dodgers made things in­ter­est­ing by scor­ing three times in the eighth off Jeremy Jef­fress and then things be­came even more nerve-wrack­ing in the ninth when Corey Knebel took the mound.

Nurs­ing a 6-4 lead at that point, Mil­wau­kee used a sec­ond suc­cess­ful chal­lenge to over­turn a Cody Bellinger in­field sin­gle that opened the in­ning. Knebel struck out Yas­mani Gran­dal be­fore

walk­ing Joc Ped­er­son to turn the lineup over for Los An­ge­les.

Lead­off man Chris Tay­lor re­sponded by tripling to the gap in right-cen­ter to score Ped­er­son and pull the Dodgers within a run. That brought up the dan­ger­ous Justin Turner, who worked a six­pitch at-bat from Knebel be­fore strik­ing out on a 97-mph fast­ball up and out of the strike zone.

Left­ies Gio Gon­za­lez and Ker­shaw ex­changed score­less first in­nings, with Ker­shaw need­ing to throw 23 pitches to even­tu­ally strand Lorenzo Cain at sec­ond base.

Manny Machado then touched Gon­za­lez up with a laser-beam homer over the wall in left-cen­ter to lead off the sec­ond and leave the Brew­ers trail­ing for the first time in the post­sea­son at 1-0.

It was also the first homer sur­ren­dered by Mil­wau­kee.

Gon­za­lez fin­ished up the frame with no fur­ther dam­age and then was lifted in the third for Woodruff, who re­tired Los An­ge­les in or­der.

Woodruff's spot was due up to open the Brew­ers' third, and want­ing mul­ti­ple in­nings from the right-han­der, man­ager Craig Coun­sell let him hit for him­self.

What a de­ci­sion that turned out to be. Six pitches into the at-bat, Ker­shaw threw a belt-high fast­ball that Woodruff crushed off the corner of the score­board in right-cen­ter to knot things up at 1-1.

It was the 22nd homer ever hit by a pitcher in the post­sea­son and just the third ever hit by a re­liever, as Woodruff joined Rosy Ryan (1924 World Se­ries, Game 3) and Travis Wood (2016 NLDS, Game 2).

It was also the fourth-ever homer hit by a pitcher off Ker­shaw.

Woodruff, who'd home­red once pre­vi­ously -- on July 13 in Pitts­burgh -- let out a huge roar as he rounded first, then he briefly turned and looked into the Brew­ers' dugout be­fore com­plet­ing his trot around the bases while the sell­out crowd of 43,615 went wild.

FIVE TAKE­AWAYS

DEC­O­RATED VET­ERAN: Ker­shaw en­tered Fri­day hold­ing fran­chise post­sea­son records for vic­to­ries (eight), starts (20), in­nings (130), strike­outs (142) and losses (seven). In the past two post­sea­sons, Ker­shaw is 4-0 with a 3.07 ERA while lim­it­ing op­po­nents to a .162 bat­ting av­er­age over seven ap­pear­ances (six starts).

LOTS OF SUC­CESS: Yelich came into the night a .529 ca­reer hit­ter against Ker­shaw, in­clud­ing .667 with two homers this sea­son. His .529 av­er­age was tied with Ari­zona's Chris Ste­wart for the high­est of any player in the ma­jor leagues against Ker­shaw (min­i­mum of 15 at-bats). He struck out and walked in two plate ap­pear­ances against Ker­shaw

on Fri­day.

THE 'PEN IS MIGHTIER:

Mil­wau­kee's bullpen closed out the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 1.72 ERA from Sept. 2 on­ward. That was the low­est bullpen ERA in the ma­jors, more than a run bet­ter than the sec­ond-place Dodgers (2.94). Brew­ers re­liev­ers came into the game hav­ing not al­lowed a run in their last 9 1/3 in­nings. The long­est such streak in fran­chise his­tory was 16, in 2008.

MOV­ING UP THE RANKS:

Braun be­came the Brew­ers' fran­chise leader by play­ing in his 18th post­sea­son game in Game 3 of the NLDS at Colorado. Braun also is the club's all-time leader in post­sea­son hit with 28 (in­clud­ing six this year), and he tied Ce­cil Cooper for first all-time with his 13th RBI. His two ca­reer post­sea­son homers are tied for fourth be­hind Prince Fielder (four) and Paul Moli­tor and Ted Sim­mons (three apiece).

A GRAND AD­DI­TION:

A year ago at this time, Cur­tis Gran­der­son was a mem­ber of a Dodgers team that would even­tu­ally ad­vance to the World Se­ries. Now he's play­ing against Los An­ge­les af­ter a late-sea­son trade that brought him to Mil­wau­kee from Toronto.

"We've added re­ally qual­ity peo­ple that have re­ally added just to the club­house and our team el­e­ment, and Cur­tis is at the top of the list," Coun­sell said.

MARK HOFF­MAN / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Catcher Erik Kratz con­grat­u­lates re­liever Corey Knebel af­ter the Brew­ers es­caped with a vic­tory Fri­day night at Miller Park in Game 1 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

MARK HOFF­MAN / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Re­liever Bran­don Woodruff gets the Brew­ers on the board with a homer run in the third in­ning Fri­day night.

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