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With their backs against the wall, the Milwaukee Brewers return to Miller Park in a must-win situation

They may be down, but they aren’t out.

MLB: NLCS-Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers have their backs up against the wall.

After yesterday’s loss, our boys return to the Cream City trailing three games to two in the best-of-seven National League Championship series. The next time they are defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers, it will mean that their 2018 season is over. We talk about “must-win” games throughout the course of the season, but tomorrow’s contest is truly a game that the Brewers cannot lose. And should they get through that one, then Saturday’s tilt will be played under similar durress.

The Dodgers were considered the favorites coming into this series despite Milwaukee’s superior regular season record. But through five games, these two squads are about as evenly matched as can be. Both offenses have looked anemic, each totaling only 16 runs. Their collective batting lines are nearly indistinguishable:

Brewers: 178 PA, .219/.272/.371, 52 K, 16 BB
Dodgers: 173 PA, .220/.304/.295, 61 K, 17 BB

Which means, of course, that high-quality pitching has dominated this series. Everyone knows that Milwaukee’s collection of out-getters don’t carry the same big-name cache as a Clayton Kershaw or Kenley Jansen, but the staff has successfully stood toe-to-toe with Los Angeles.

Milwaukee has allowed 37 hits in 47.2 innings during the series. Los Angeles has given up 38 hits in an even 48.0 innings. The Brewers have missed more bats (61 K vs. 52 K) than the Dodgers. Los Angeles has a slight edge in walks (16 BB vs. 17 BB), and both staffs have virtually the same WHIP (1.154 for Milwaukee, 1.146 for LA).

Craig Counsell has stuck with the club’s unconventional approach to preventing runs, including yesterday’s “Wade Miley Gambit” where the lefty faced only one batter as the surprise opener before turning the ball over to Brandon Woodruff. And on the whole, it has worked. The (incorrect) perception that Milwaukee’s “gimmicky” pitching can’t keep pace with the Dodgers is not why the Brewers are trailing in this series.

Milwaukee’s big bats have gone silent in the NLCS. Lineup anchors Christian Yelich (.442 OPS) and Lorenzo Cain (.655 OPS) have openly discussed how they are struggling to see the baseball right now. Jesus Aguilar has seemingly stranded the population of a small country on base during this series. Mike Moustakas looks lost (.095 average, 8 K in 5 games).

The most prolific offensive players for Milwaukee have been a pair of pitchers - Wade Miley and Brandon Woodruff - along with Orlando Arcia, who was the worst hitter in the National League during the 2018 regular season. Those stories are fun to talk about, sure, but in order for this franchise to move on to their first World Series in 36 years, they are going to need some more help from the main guys who got them here.

As a fan, it is easy to feel dejected right now. But while our Menomonee Valley Nine may be down, they are not out. This is the same team that captured a league-best 96 victories to earn the right to play the next games on their home field. We are still watching the same squad that posted the NL’s best home winning percentage (51-30, .630). These Brewers have won back-to-back games on 35 separate occasions this year. In fact, patrons are entitled to free burgers at all George Webb’s locations today between 2:00p and 6:00p, because this team recently reeled of a stretch of 12 straight wins.

Yes, the Brewers have lost two games in a row in Los Angeles. But this is the first time they’ve dropped consecutive games since September 15th and 16th. They haven’t lost three straight ballgames since August 15th-18th. And now their best initial out-getters - Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin - are lined up to take the ball to begin games six and seven at Miller Park, which figures to be stuffed to the gills with loudly cheering fans this weekend.

I will remind you again: your Milwaukee Brewers are still alive and are a mere two wins away from the a berth in the Fall Classic.

Let’s keep the faith.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference