If game one of the National League Championship Series is setting a precedent for how the rest of this series will go, I don’t think I will survive. The Milwaukee Brewers beats the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5. This is now their 12th victory in a row (free hamburgers!!), but it was anything but easy.
Gio Gonzalez started the game for Milwaukee and gave two fine innings. The lefty allowed one run on a Manny Machado solo shot, but with Clayton Kershaw pitching, the one run felt like 100. Knowing the value of getting the first NLCS victory, Counsell made an early switch on the mound going to Brandon Woodruff. It might just be the move of the game.
Not only did Woodruff come in and throw two perfect innings while striking out four Dodgers, he also got the offense going with a leadoff solo shot off Clayton Kershaw. It’s a moment that needs to be watched to do it justice.
Woodruff celebrated his huge shot to center with several excited yells into the dugout, a couple of arm waves around the mound, and then one emphatic run down the gauntlet. He’s the fourth pitcher ever to homer off Kershaw, the first to homer off him in the playoffs, and seemingly the spark plug that got the Brewers offense going.
Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich would reach base after Woodruff. Jesus Aguilar came to the plate with one out and smacked a liner to the first baseman, but it turns out that Yasmani Grandal was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day as his glove had reached into Aguilar’s swing path. With catcher interference, Aguilar went to first, loading the bases. Hernan Perez hit a shallow fly to center, good enough to drive in a run and take the lead.
Moving to the fourth, Brandon Woodruff would be replaced by pinch-hitter Domingo Santana with two Brewers on and nobody out. Santana drove a ball into left field that would plate both base runners and extend the lead to 4-1. Ryan Braun would then single with two outs to give the Crew a four-run lead.
If Brandon Woodruff isn’t the MVP of game one, it’s Josh Hader. Hader came out in the fifth and went three innings where he appeared to be more or less untouchable. Hader allowed two hits while striking out four in what proved to be the longest outing of his big league career in terms of pitches thrown.
Before things got wild, the Brewers were able to get one very very important insurance run from Aguilar. Zeus smacked an opposite-field solo home run that would prove to be the difference in the game.
From here, things weren’t so pretty. Xavier Cedeno and allowed a single to the leadoff batter before getting a force out and exiting the game. Counsell turned to Joakim Soria, who’s been very reliable, but gave up a hit and a walk to load the bases while only getting one out. With trouble brewing, the leader of the Milwaukee Nine went to his closer, Jeremy Jeffress. With two outs, Jeffress allowed back-to-back singles that drown in three runs and brought the Dodgers within two of Milwaukee. JJ escaped the inning on a Yasiel Puig strikeout.
Going with the hot hand, Counsell went to Corey Knebel in the last frame. Knebel hadn’t allowed a run since August 21 against the Reds. That streak ended on a Chris Taylor RBI triple that Lorenzo Cain just barely missed catching on a near impossible attempt in right center. Knebel came back against the next batter and got a strikeout to secure the victory.
If your heart’s up for it, game two of the NLCS starts at 3:09 p.m. tomorrow. Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA) will take the mound against Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA). Craig Counsell has already announced that Josh Hader is unavailable, but it sounds like every other pitcher will be able to help out if needed.