The Brewers bullpen is their biggest strength, but so far in the postseason the starting pitchers have been stellar for Milwaukee.
Sorry, not starters. Initial out-getters.
Wade Miley pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday, though suffered a no-decision thanks to a Dodgers comeback. Against the vaunted bullpen.
Miley’s 5⅔ scoreless innings on Saturday followed his 4⅔ scoreless frames last Sunday to close out an NLDS sweep of the Rockies.
“We were in really good shape with the effort that Wade gave us,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He pitched beautifully.”
Counsell has been aggressive with his relievers, pulling his starters at the first sign of trouble. The only Brewers starter in five games this postseason to not last at least three innings was Gio Gonzalez, who had the audacity to allow a single run in Game 1 of the NLCS, in his two innings.
Brewers starting pitchers this postseason — Miley, Gonzalez, Jhoulys Chacin, and a spot start from Brandon Woodruff — have allowed one run in 20⅓ innings this postseason.
Sure these starts have been shorter than usual, but through only five games the Brewers have four scoreless starts. The only team with more such starts in a single postseason was the 2016 Indians, and they made it all to Game 7 of the World Series.
The Milwaukee bullpen pitched more innings than the starters in the NLDS, and it’s been more of the same in the NLCS. In total, Brewers relievers have thrown 25⅔ innings in five postseason games, a little over five more than the starters.
“Our choice is to try to use the guys that we think have the best chance to get outs to get the outs,” Counsell said.
On Saturday — after a 12-game winning streak — it didn’t work out. The Brewers needed seven innings from the bullpen in Game 1, and used their main weapon Josh Hader for three innings with a four-run lead, making the left-hander unavailable for Game 2.
The Dodgers on Saturday scored four runs in 3⅓ innings against the Milwaukee bullpen, and have scored eight runs in 10⅓ innings against them in the series.
In a twist, it has been the Brewers starters that have stymied the Dodgers so far.
“Our mindset is just trying to get 27 outs and trying to win the ballgame. So we don’t think about we have to go deep in the games,” said Chacin, who will start in Game 3 on Monday in Los Angeles. “You really want to go deep in the game, but at the same time, you just want to put your team in the best position to win the ballgame.”
So far this October, Brewers starting pitchers have done just that.