MILWAUKEE — On his fifth team in five seasons, a year removed from having a 5.61 ERA and eight months after signing a minor-league contract as spring training opened, Wade Miley pitched perhaps his best game as a Brewer on Saturday.
But it wasn’t enough. The Brewers’ bullpen blew it as the Dodgers won, 4-3, in Game 2 of the NLCS to even the series at 1-1.
“The Dodgers are a pretty good squad over there,” Miley said of a team in its third NLCS in a row. “Those guys have been so good down there [in the Brewers’ bullpen] and they’re going to be fine the rest of the way.”
For most of the game, Miley looked like the highlight, offering the Brewers’ best and longest start in five postseason games. He went 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowed only two hits and retired 17 of 19 batters, including 16 in a row before Chris Taylor’s two-out single to center in the sixth.
Instead of letting Miley (74 pitches) face the meat of the Dodgers’ lineup for a third time, manager Craig Counsell turned to his bullpen, which nearly blew Game 1 Friday night and one-upped itself Saturday.
That decision was in line with Counsell’s philosophy, which has served him well as the Brewers captured their first NL Central title since 2011 and swept the Rockies in the NLDS. Milwaukee hasn’t had a starter go six innings since Gio Gonzalez on Sept. 19 against the Reds. It hasn’t had a starter go more than six innings since Jhoulys Chacin (6 1/3) on Aug. 31 against the Nationals.
The counterargument would be that Counsell stuck with his predetermined strategy to the point of counterproductive rigidity. Miley wasn’t getting hit hard — Taylor’s line drive to center came off the bat at 92 mph, and that was on the high end of his spectrum Saturday — and was playing his fastball off his cutter as he had hoped. Of Miley’s 16 major-league starts this year, he went at least six innings in six of them. The Brewers were without relief ace Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel also had pitched Friday.
“I mean, look, you’re either too early or too late. At some point, you gotta make a decision,” Counsell said. “We were in really good shape with the effort that Wade gave us. He pitched beautifully. … He did more than we expected for sure.”
Corbin Burnes finished the sixth without issue, but he and Jeffress allowed two runs total in the seventh.
Miley looked unhappy in the moment, leaving mid-inning to a standing ovation, but after the game had settled in enough to say he understood.
This is the Brewers’ norm, after all. He has had similar experiences repeatedly in recent weeks.
“I don’t think it’s ever easier because obviously you want to be in the game,” Miley said. “But at the same time, I think there’s more understanding with the bullpen we have down there and as effective as they’ve been all year long. We trust them.”