MILWAUKEE — It’s kitchen-sink season for the Brewers.
As they head back to Miller Park for Game 6 on Friday, the Dodgers holding a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS, manager Craig Counsell and the Brewers face a miniscule margin for error.
Win Friday, and try to do it again Saturday. Lose Friday, and go home for the winter.
“We're in a good spot, man. We're going home,” Counsell said. “And I know you're going to play what-if if we could have captured another one of these games [in Los Angeles], but we're still going home and have a chance with this thing with a bunch of guys in really good shape.”
Despite the Brewers feeling good about themselves, the Dodgers’ position of power means a degree of desperation for Milwaukee. And desperate times call for memorable performances.
Will — or can — relief ace Josh Hader provide multiple innings on multiple days? Will Wade Miley (Game 6 against Hyun-Jin Ryu) and Jhoulys Chacin (Game 7), journeyman who have served as Milwaukee’s only traditional starting pitchers this postseason, go deep? Will any of the Brewers’ big bats wake up?
The Brewers actually do have quite a bit going for them, starting with the day off Thursday, which makes it easier to go the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink route if circumstances demand it.
Hader, who pitched on consecutive days this week for the first time since August, is coming off back-to-back days off. The same is true of Corey Knebel, who pitched in all of the series’ first four games. Jeremy Jeffress, who got into Games 1-3, will have had three days off entering Game 6.
All told, that means Counsell should be able to squeeze plenty of innings from his best bullpen arms. It helps, too, that both starters are rested enough to throw as many pitches as their results merit. That having a normal starter for each of the potential two games elicits excitement from the Brewers speaks to how unusual their pitching plans have been this month.
“We've got two starters lined up and we've got a bullpen that's going to get a day off, and some of our key guys are going to get multiple days off and be ready to go in a two-game stretch where we can use them,” Counsell said.
The Dodgers, also division champs who haven’t exactly been peaking, have seen plenty of the Brewers’ bullpen, including a combined 21 innings in Games 4 and 5
Los Angeles third baseman Justin Turner said that increased familiarity is “definitely an advantage.”
“The more and more you see guys the more you're capable of putting together a game plan and an approach that will work for you,” Turner said. “So definitely getting more comfortable, definitely knowing how they're attacking us. And we got pretty good results [Wednesday].”
The same can’t be said of Milwaukee’s top hitters.
Ryan Braun and Jesus Aguilar have totaled one home run this series, matching reliever Brandon Woodruff’s total. Mike Moustakas, acquired via trade in July in part because of his postseason experience with the Royals, has hit .095 (two singles in 21 at-bats) with eight strikeouts and one walk.
And Christian Yelich, who completed his NL MVP case by powering the Brewers to a division title, is hitting .150 with no extra-base hits for a .442 OPS.
“He's just not on it right now,” Counsell said of Yelich. “I'm glad we've got a day off. I'm glad we're going back home. He's just not on it right now.”