MILWAUKEE — Their season needed saving, and the Brewers looked to Jesus.
First baseman Jesus Aguilar led an offensive breakout Friday night in the Brewers’ 7-2 win over the Dodgers in NLCS Game 6, which tied the best-of-seven series at 3-3.
Aguilar went 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs, two runs scored and a walk. The Brewers, who scored as many runs in this game as they did in their previous three combined, extended their improbable run for at least another day — to the brink of the World Series. “Until we got the last three outs,” Aguilar said, “there was a lot of tension there.”
The Brewers’ Jhoulys Chacin will face the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler in Game 7 on Saturday night at Miller Park. First pitch is scheduled for 8:09 p.m. ET. The winner will face the Red Sox in the World Series starting Tuesday night.
Los Angeles is looking for its second National League title in a row and a World Series championship that has proved elusive during its run of NL West dominance. The Dodgers have not won the World Series since 1988.
The Brewers are looking for their first World Series berth since 1982, when they were an American League team and lost to St. Louis in the franchise’s only Fall Classic appearance.
Among current Brewers, only one player was alive then: catcher Erik Kratz, who was 2. Manager Craig Counsell — who grew up outside Milwaukee and whose father, John, worked for the Brewers — was 12.
A bonus for the Brewers: Thanks to tack-on runs courtesy of Aguilar in the seventh (double, scored on a wild pitch) and eighth (RBI single), Milwaukee didn’t use relief ace Josh Hader, who will enter Game 7 with three days of rest. Corey Knebel (two innings, 25 pitches Friday) and Jeremy Jeffress (one inning, 13 pitches) are expected to be available. “Best-case scenario for sure for us,” Counsell said.
How many innings can Hader handle? “Twelve,” Counsell said. “I’m just kidding. He’s fresh. He [warmed] up tonight. We’ll see how he goes. But you’ll see him.”
Said Hader: “There is no limit. It’s Game 7. There’s no limits at all.”
The same will be true for others, on both teams. The Dodgers’ highest-leverage relievers, including closer Kenley Jansen, didn’t pitch Friday. Manager Dave Roberts said all of his pitchers except Game 6 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu will be available — including Clayton Kershaw, who went seven innings Wednesday.
As the Dodgers’ number of chances dwindled, their frustration grew. The top of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings ended with a strikeout followed immediately by a scream or a chucking of equipment or both. In the seventh, Max Muncy barked at plate umpire Brian Gorman over a called second strike, a curveball that appeared to be outside.
Manny Machado went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Each at-bat drew loud, sustained boos from the crowd, which took exception to Machado kicking Aguilar as he ran through first base earlier this week. “It was loud,” Aguilar said with a smile. “The fans did what they’re supposed to, what they need to do.”
Ryu lasted only three innings and allowed five runs — including four in a three-pitch span in the first. He previously hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a game all season.
The damage in the first came quickly. Aguilar, batting with two on and two out, shot a two-run double into the rightfield corner, driving in Lorenzo Cain (single) and Ryan Braun (walk). On the next pitch, Mike Moustakas ripped a double into the rightfield corner. On the next pitch, Kratz snuck an RBI single through the right side.
That sequence more than compensated for David Freese’s home run to right-center to lead off the game, and indeed proved to be twice as many runs as Los Angeles scored all night.
They’ll do it all again Saturday, this time winner take all.
“The pressure is the pressure. It’s going to be in the house the whole game,” Jeffress said. “I think it’s more on [the Dodgers] just because they’re on the road . . . And to have our bullpen still fresh, like we are, it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure on them.”