clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Brewers pulled the fake starter trick on the Dodgers in NLCS Game 5

Wade Miley came out of the game after just one batter.

Wade Miley was set to start NLCS Game 5 against the Dodgers in LA, a crucial game in the series with both teams hoping to take a permanent lead from this 2-2 tie. Miley indeed started the game, and then almost immediately left it after walking the leadoff batter.

As everyone sat there wondering what in high heaven was going on, it quickly became clear that the Brewers had pulled the ol’ fake starter trick on the Dodgers in order to get them to start their right-handed platoon against a lefty pitcher, only to then switch to righty Brandon Woodruff and hope to come out on top in the matchup game.

A silent John Smoltz trying to make sense of things in the booth was an underrated highlight, as he assured the audience at home he was still there, saying “My mic works i’m just trying to process... I’ll get back to you.” That’s the best thing Smoltz has done all season.

If you thought the Brewers thought of that at the last minute though, don’t sell them short. Craig Counsell knew exactly what he was doing. After the game, Counsell confirmed that Miley will start Game 6 and said “That’s what we were going to do all along.”

In an MLB.com story after the game, a rundown of the other players finding out the plan that evokes more of an Ocean’s 11 vibe than a baseball game.

“I’m probably going to go out there and throw about four of those things,” Miley said.

”What are you talking about?” Yelich said.

”I’m only throwing to the first batter,” Miley said, before heading to the bullpen.

Woodruff watched in hiding as Miley warmed up, remaining in the bullpen tunnel until the two teams exchanged lineup cards.

”Then I came out,” Woodruff said. “I was told not to inform anybody. I was told to keep it to myself.”

Essentially, it made Game 5 Miley’s bullpen day and he will start the next game at home in Miller Park with the chance to maybe clinch the series for Milwaukee. If the Dodgers lost Game 5, facing Miley in a must-win road game is not what they’d want to see at all. But since the Brewers lost, and are down 3-2 in the series, they have some insurance starting Game 6 and hope Miley’s arm is enough to keep them in the series for a definitive Game 7. Then, if there is a Game 7, the Brewers now have Jhoulys Chacin on the mound with an extra day of rest, which is good foresight.

The Dodgers sort of fell for the trick, starting multiple hitters who probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Joc Pederson was out of the starting outfield lineup in favor of righty Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig didn’t start either. David Freese batted third.

However, LA put left-handed Cody Bellinger into the leadoff spot for only the second time in his career and the first time in over a year. Before the game Roberts said of Bellinger in the leadoff spot,

“Just to shake things up. I like Cody’s at-bats against Miley. I think that the quality of contact and I like him there. Going forward how we could combat what they do, it made sense to us.”

They also started lefty Max Muncy at second, who has only appeared in 13 games there this season. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers were a little suspicious of the Brewers’ plans before the game, hence the mixed lineup.

After the game Dave Roberts admitted “You’ve got to prepare for the unexpected.”

Later in the game the Dodgers moved Muncy from second to first, Bellinger back to right field, Chris Taylor to center field, and Kiké Hernandez to second from left field to get Joc Pederson in with David Freese subbed out. So Puig is still there if they need him but the lineup is not what it probably would have started at otherwise.

This uber-bullpenning strategy almost backfired on the Brewers immediately, with Woodruff hitting Justin Turner to put two batters on base before one out was recorded. They got out of the first without allowing a run though. We’ll see if having Miley on the mound in a must-win for Milwaukee keeps them in the series for a Game 7, or if it won’t matter against these Dodgers bats.