Reliever’s homer for Brewers opens floodgates against Dodgers in Game 1
moment that opened the floodgates for the Brewers. Four runs later, the Brewers had chased Kershaw from the game.
In their first NLCS appearance since 2011, the Brewers looked comfortable and carefree. The Dodgers, making their third straight NLCS appearance, and their fourth in six years, played sloppily until they rallied late in the game.
For all of his regular-season success, Kershaw does not have a particularly stellar postseason résumé. He went into the game with an 8-7 record over 13 postseason series and, on Friday, produced the shortest playoff outing (three innings) of his career.
Kershaw’s command was not sharp, and the Brewers’ hitters did not bite on balls outside the strike zone. Staked to a 1-0 lead by a home run from Manny Machado, Kershaw lost it to Woodruff. Then a Hernan Perez sacrifice fly drove in Lorenzo Cain and doubled the Brewers’ lead.
As it has all postseason, everything seemed to go the Brewers’ way.
With Manny Pina on base after a walk in the fourth inning, Orlando Arcia singled to left field, but Chris Taylor could not field the ball cleanly, giving each runner an extra base. This proved critical when the next batter, pinch hitter Domingo Santana, singled off a fastball down the middle of the strike zone and drove both runners home. After that, Kershaw was done.
Then, after Santana was ruled out on an attempt to steal second, Brewers manager Craig Counsell challenged the play. It was overturned. Soon thereafter, Ryan Braun singled in Santana for a 5-1 lead. Jesus Aguilar added a solo homer in the seventh to push the lead to 6-1.
Taylor was not alone in undermining the Dodgers and Kershaw. Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal committed two passed balls and two errors, including a catcher’s interference, all by the third inning.
Milwaukee, on the other hand, played soundly and aggressively. As the Brewers have shown throughout this season, they are solidly among the teams that want to move away from the traditional interpretations of starting and relief pitcher. So after starter Gio Gonzalez gave up the home run to Machado and completed the second inning, Counsell told Woodruff to take Gonzalez’s place on the mound and in the batting order.
Woodruff fired two electric innings, striking out four and flashing a 97 mph fastball.
Josh Hader, the star reliever, followed with three spotless innings. Their heirs in the eighth inning ran into some trouble, allowing three runs to necessitate an early appearance by closer Jeremy Jeffress. Corey Knebel closed out the win in the ninth but not before the Dodgers pulled within a run. They had a runner on third as Justin Turner struck out to end the game.
Before Woodruff could take the mound, the pitcher’s No. 9 spot in the batting order led off the bottom of the third inning.
While in the minor leagues, Woodruff, a Brewers 11th-round pick in the 2014 draft, swung the bat well for a pitcher. Two seasons ago in Class AA, he hit .292 (7 for 24) and blasted a home run.
This season with the Brewers, he went 2 for 8 with a home run. Then came Friday’s shot, off a three-time Cy Young Award winner.
After the ball bounced off the railing beyond the center field fence, Miller Park erupted and Woodruff raced around the bases.
Running past first, he turned toward the home dugout, screamed and pumped his arms. Kershaw looked down and away. The home run was measured at 407 feet.
In the dugout, Gonzalez, who would have been batting instead of Woodruff, bounced up and down with his arms in the air.
The Dodgers, making their third straight NLCS appearance, played sloppily until they rallied late.