The Milwaukee Brewers head into the National League Championship Series as probably the hottest team in baseball. The Brewers are on a 14-game winning streak and have won 18 of their last 22. They have taken themselves from outside bet at winning the division to having home-field advantage on the NLCS. They now welcome last years World Series finalists the Los Angeles Dodgers into Miller Park on Friday. Can they stay hot or will the Dodgers burst their bubble?
Having the home-field advantage is obviously important and the Brewers have won their last six in Miller Park. However, in the Championship Series, it is a little less important than in the Divisional Series. When you host the opening games of DS if you can win both games you then only need to win one of the next three. In the CS that is a little different. The Brewers will still need two wins to go to the World Series. It is only one-game more, but it makes a big difference. Psychologically heading home down 2-0 in a first to four is nowhere near as daunting as in a first to three.
The Brewers still need to take advantage of being at home. The Dodgers are supremely talented and it looks like they will face Clayton Kershaw in one of those two games. If the Brewers can knock off Kershaw in Miller Park it will be a huge boost.
Hitting Is The Key
It is no secret that the Brewers rotation is not great, not compared to the Dodgers anyway. Therefore, they will need their hitters to step up. In the playoffs and play-in game, they are averaging four runs per game. However, the Dodgers are averaging five runs per game. The Brewers hitters have to go one step further to give this team the best chance.
They need to match their performance hitting performance from the last 10-games of the regular season, where they averaged 10 runs per game. However, that will not be easy. Here is the Dodgers likely four-man rotation with their 2018 ERAs; Hyun-jin Ryu 1.97, Kershaw 2.73, Walker Buehler 2.62 and Rich Hill 3.66. Even worse news for the Brewers is that only Kershaw has over 150 innings under his belt this year. That pitching staff is fresh and are going to be hard to hit.
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Can The Rotation Stay Strong?
The names in this rotation are not that impressive. However, in these four playoff type games they Brewers have surrendered just three runs in four games. That carries on a solid run in their last 10-games where they averaged just 3.1 runs surrendered per game.
Coming into this game there is just one big question mark hanging over the rotation. The break to Friday helps their two traditional starters in Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley, who pitched Friday and Sunday respectively. Miley comes into the series with a comparable ERA to the Dodgers pitchers at 2.57 in 80 2.3 innings. However, Chacin has a 3.50 ERA, over 190 innings pitched and has thrown twice in these playoffs already!
The rest of their rotation likely consists of Brandon Woodruff (3.61 ERA) in the role of an extended opener and Gio Gonzalez (2.13 ERA in Milwaukee). Gonzalez has been really good in five starts since coming over from the Washington Nationals in a trade. There is a good chance the Brewers are going to need a lot from their bullpen three of Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, and Josh Hader.
The Final Word
The Dodgers are on their own little hot streak. They won six of their last eight in the regular season and have won four of five in playoffs and play-in games. However, the Brewers hot streak has been incredible but their hitters need to reload and go again starting Friday. Go down 0-2 heading back to Los Angeles and they are in serious trouble. They will likely then have their weakest two starters pitching on the road against two really good pitchers in Hill and Buehler.
For the sake of the series, I really hope the Brewers can at least split the first four games of the series. If they do then anything can happen in a best-of-three type series. This Brewers team went all in on this season and it would be really great if they can ride this wave into the World Series and perhaps even a ring.
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