Thanks to this godforsaken playoff format, the Dodgers (43-17) faced off against the Brewers (29-31) tonight in Game 1 of the three-game NL Wild Card Series.
It was absolutely pivotal that the Dodgers take Game 1 as the pitching matchup for Game 2 is a lot closer to neutral, and thankfully they managed to eke out a 4-2 victory thanks to the bullpens … both of them.
The Brewers have been devastated by injury and thus especially went with a pen game to start the series. Brent Suter was a disaster, giving up a lead-off double to Mookie Betts that Ryan Braun couldn’t quite reach in right and then walking Corey Seager. Justin Turner got ahead but popped out, and Max Muncy worked a walk to load the bases for Will Smith, who also walked to give the Dodgers an early 1-0 lead.
Cody Bellinger then popped out to shallow left, but AJ Pollock drew another walk for a 2-0 lead. Edwin Rios barely missed a grand slam foul before grounding out, and the Brewers had to feel fortunate about that result.
The bats didn’t let up in the 2nd against Suter, with Chris Taylor starting the frame with a double and Betts trading places with him for his second double of the night and a 3-0 lead.
Suter got the next two batters, but after issuing Muncy’s second walk of the game, that was his night. He gave up just three hits, but walked as many batters as he got out with five. Suter threw 51 pitches and just 21 strikes.
Eric Yardley was then tasked with keeping the Dodgers at bay and he managed to do exactly that. He got seven consecutive outs, buying time for the Brewers and getting them through the 4th.
On the other end Walker Buehler was on his game early, and through three frames he allowed just a single and a walk. However, he faced trouble in the 4th when Daniel Vogelbach went the other way for a double with one down, and later with two down, Orlando Arcia turned around a 0-2 fastball that missed location for a homer to make it 3-2.
Still dealing with a blister, Buehler’s night ended after four innings and 73 pitches.
His final line was marred by the homer, as he was otherwise quite dominant: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K.
Julio Urias entered in the 5th, allowing two singles, but also notching four strikeouts. In the 6th he saw some trouble after Muncy inexplicably swiped at a ball he was chasing after for an error to put the tying run at second, but Urias got out of the jam to keep things at 3-2. He then continued on in the 7th, giving up a two-out double to Christian Yelich but keeping the lead intact.
On the night, Urias went three quality shutout innings, surrendering just two singles and a double while striking out five.
Justin Topa did excellent in his two innings, giving up a single and a walk but facing just one over the minimum thanks to a double play in his scoreless outing.
Freddy Peralta was next, but he couldn’t keep the momentum going for the pen, giving up a one-out solo shot to Corey Seager out to dead center. That was desperately needed insurance to make it 4-2.
Blake Treinen was next up and he kept things 4-2, giving up just a single against the shift and ending things with a nasty strikeout.
With the bats being unable to provide anything else, Kenley Jansen came in for the 9th to protect the lead. Surely having the supreme confidence of everybody watching, Kenley got a lazy fly out to center and a ground out to short to start, but then issued a walk to bring up the tying run in Yelich. Thankfully, he rebounded by getting him on a trademark cutter up and in for the save.
While Kenley’s velocity and movement has been sharp, I didn’t have a problem with him being closer even if the command was a question mark. But boy he showed some dire signs tonight.
Will Smith provided a great reaction.
The Dodgers take a 1-0 series lead over the Brewers.
Game 2 is tomorrow at 4:00 PM HST/7:00 PM PST/10:00 PM EST on ESPN. Clayton Kershaw (2.16 ERA/3.31 FIP/3.22 SIERA) will attempt to flip his postseason script once again, and he will face off against Brandon Woodruff (3.05 ERA/3.20 FIP/3.30 SIERA).