Dear Craig Counsell,
Welcome to the brink.
You have now reached an inevitable point in every team’s season: Elimination.
So listen closely:
The question must not be “How did we get here?”
The question must only be “What do we do now?”
There is nothing in a manager’s toolbox that can simulate the added stress of facing elimination. The only preparation is experience, which for your opponent the Dodgers, the defending NL Champs, is a given. They themselves were in your shoes last Fall, when they faced elimination–and Justin Verlander–at home in Game 6 of the World Series.
The Dodgers would beat Verlander to win Game 6. The Astros would then win Game 7.
In fact, the Astros succeeded in both positions in last year’s postseason, having just prior defeated the Yankees in Games 6 and 7 after New York took a 3-2 series lead to Houston.
This year, the defending champs came into the postseason hot and won their first four games. Then with three consecutive losses, the last of which being the crushing 8-6 loss in Game 4 that will go down as one of the greatest games in ALCS history, the exuberantly confident Astros suddenly found themselves confronted with elimination.
Whether it was the pressure of the moment, or the weight of Game 4, or the quality of the Red Sox that got to Houston, of course, cannot be known. What is known is the Game 5 box score.
The Dodgers have been here before, but fear not, for not to be overlooked is the pedigree on your own roster. Because luckily for you, two-time World Series hero Craig Counsell, the Dodgers’ dugout isn’t the only one full of postseason experience.
Your offseason signing CF Lorenzo Cain and trade deadline acquisition 3B Mike Moustakas, as well as RP Joakim Soria, were each key pieces on the Kansas City Royals teams that won back-to-back American League Pennants, losing to Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in seven games in 2014 before defeating the New York Mets in five games to win the World Series in 2015. And your longest tenured player, LF Ryan Braun, was the Brewers’ most dangerous hitter in Milwaukee’s last trip to the NLCS, in 2011.
Braun won the MVP that season, and it will likely be your RF Christian Yelich who does so in 2018. But with your Brewers suddenly teetering on the edge of the offseason, it may be the now-veteran Braun, Moustakas, and Cain who are most poised to keep your Brewers alive.
The easiest way for the Dodgers, in Game 6 and if not then in Game 7, will be to score first. With potentially only 27 outs left, an early deficit may provide enough pressure to burst the Brewers’ pipes.
It’s an old saying that It’s not a series until a team wins on the road.
Justin Turner made it a series when he took Jeremy Jeffress deep late in Game 2.
But the Dodgers were unable to hold serve at home, and are left with two games in Milwaukee to get one win.
So, Craig Counsell, you have two games at Miller Park and you need to have them both. Just between you and I: Do you like your chances?
You probably do. And that makes one of us.
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We can't name the owner, but it's a SHORT STOP away from YANKEE STADIUM.
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The view from the top must be nice.