With the juggernaut’s in the American League taking a day off to travel from Boston to Houston, the NLCS comes back into focus for Game 3. The first two games in Milwaukee have put a spotlight on the potent offenses of each squad, as well as showcase their Achilles Heels.
Ahead of Game 3, we learned a lot about how this series should shake out.
The Dodgers have been here before, twice in the last two years in fact. So this scenario of coming home tied in the NLCS shouldn’t scare them, it should re-invigorate them. They snagged a win on the last-minute heroics by Justin Turner, and now have Walker Buehler of the mound ahead of Rich Hill and then Kershaw for Game 5. Things are looking up for the Dodgers, but they still have some areas to improve upon.
Relieve the Relievers
Los Angeles needs its starters to go the distance. So far the Dodgers have gone to their bullpen for 54% of the innings played. That’s not great. Clayton Kershaw averaged 6.1 innings a start, he tossed a measly three in Game 1 #PlayoffKershaw. Ryu averaged 5.2 innings a start
That’s where Walker Buehler comes in. The almost-lock for Rookie of the Year Runner-Up takes the hill for the Dodgers in Game 3, and while he’ll be looking to stifle the Brewers bats, he’ll be looking to eat innings as well.
Buehler, the 24-year-old phenom from Lexington, Kentucky, has been having an incredible first season in the bigs. Posting a 2.62 ERA and a 0.961 WHIP in 23 starts this season, Buehler appears to be a star in the making, a perfect #2 behind Kershaw, something he hasn’t had since Zack Greinke in 2015.
In his career, Brewers hitters hold a .227 average against Buehler, knocking 5 hits in 22 at-bats. It should also be mentioned that those 5 hits belong to three players; Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar and Mike Moustakas.
The longer Buehler stays in the game the longer he helps his team. That might sound like the dumbest piece of analysis, but that’s how simple this is for the Dodgers. Keep Buehler in there.
LA: Lost At-Bats
So far the only Dodger bat pulling his weight has been Chris Taylor, knocking five hits in nine at-bats this series. Besides the 2017 NLCS All-Star, the Dodgers haven’t been themselves at the plate. Sure Justin Turner’s big fly put them over the Dodgers, but that was just his second hit in nine at-bats. So I’ll believe the turn around when I see it.
The Dodgers need some big bats to wake up from the pre-winter hibernation they’ve been in. Non-existant from the NLCS have been the bats of Cody Bellinger, the aforementioned Turner, Yasmany Grandal, Kiké Hernandez and Yasiel Puig, who remains hitless through two games. That right there is five of your starting 9 bats, that have been dormant this series. That’s a problem. Dave Roberts needs to be praying that the warm weather in LA thaws out these frigid bats.
Dairyland in DisneyLand
For the Brewers, they need to keep playing their game in Los Angeles. When the Mets took down the Dodgers in 2015, they did so with their bats, slowly chipping away at Greinke and the Dodgers until they finally broke.
The Brewers took down the Cubs and the Rockies to get to this point. That’s no small feat, so heading to Dodger Stadium shouldn’t give them pause. If the Astros could take them down at home, why can’t the Brewers? However, in order to return to Milwaukee with a chance to clinch their first World Series appearance since 1982, there are a few things they need to fix.
Stop the Bullpen bleeding
Eight of the nine runs given up by the Brewers have been off of their bullpen. That’s
Lead by the controversial Josh Hader and solidified by the once traded Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers bullpen was a thing to behold. In the 2018 regular season, the Brewers relievers held the fifth lowest ERA at 3.47, the fifth-lowest opposing average at .230, and had a K/9 of 10.38, good enough for 3rd in the entire league.
That’s not the case. Jeremy Jeffress has been rocked this series to the tune a 13.50 ERA
Brewers Manager Craig Counsell already said that he was going to Corbin Burnes in Game 2 instead of Hader, who threw 46 pitches in Game 1. Burnes was the first arm out of the pen in Game 2 and he gave up two runs in 0.1 innings of work. Next up was Jeremy Jeffress, who gave up a moonshot to Justin Turner.
The Brewers need to fix their bullpen issues before they come back to really hurt their chances of a World Series trip.
The Opposite is True for the Offense
The Brewers are seeing 4.4 pitches per at-bat in the NLCS, and if they really want to do damage they’ll have to get to the bullpen as fast as possible. The Dodger bullpen is exhausted after coming in to save the day for Kershaw and Ryu in the first two games.
As stated above, the Dodgers need to keep Buehler in as long as possible, at least in Game 3 to give the bullpen some kind of breathing room. The earlier Roberts heads to the pen, the better for the Brewers bats.
I think we get another split of the next two games, but this series heads back to Miller Park with the Brewers up 3-2. Buehler’s got a great arm and can take down the Brewers, but the question really sits with Rich Hill in Game 4. Can Hill do it again? Is he capable of creating some postseason magic again? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that this series is already a lot more exciting and interesting
And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
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