Brewers’ bullpen showing cracks against Dodgers
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Told he had the day off after pitching three shutout innings in the NL Championship Series opener, hard-throwing Milwaukee left-hander Josh Hader wasn’t expecting a call to the bullpen.
After watching Brewers relievers blow a late three-run lead in Game 2, Hader would have embraced back-to-back outings, high pitch count and all.
“Adrenaline can do a lot things,” he said when asked if he could have pitched.
The best-of-seven series is tied at a game apiece after the Dodgers dented the rest of the Brewers’ hard-throwing relievers in the late innings for a second straight day and won 4-3 on Saturday.
While Wade Miley pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings and became Milwaukee’s first pitcher to get an out in the sixth inning in the postseason, the Dodgers rallied from a three-run, seventh-inning deficit for the win.
Miley had thrown 74 pitches when he was removed.
“Look you’re either too early or too late,” manager Craig Counsell said. “At some point, you’ve got to make a decision, and I thought he was going through the heart of the lineup for the third time.”
Milwaukee had the fifth-best bullpen ERA during the regular season at 3.47, including a best-in-the-majors 1.98 in September.
But the bullpen has been showing cracks. Milwaukee pitchers made 72 appearances during the Brewers’ 12-game winning streak, including 24 in the first four games of the playoffs. It’s a heavy workload.
Other than Hader, the Brewers’ bullpen has allowed eight runs in 7 1/3 innings against Los Angeles, a 9.82 ERA.
Milwaukee nearly wasted a five-run lead in Game 1 before holding on for a 6-5 win Friday night when Corey Knebel struck out Justin Turner to strand the potential tying run on third. Four relievers gave up four runs and five hits in the last two innings
With the Brewers ahead 3-0 in the seventh in Game 2, Corbin Burnes walked Max Muncy leading off the seventh, gave up a single to Manny Machado and an RBI single to Cody Bellinger. Jeremy Jeffress came in and forced in a run with a one-out, bases-loaded walk to Austin Barnes before getting Yasmani Grandal to ground into a double play.
But Chris Taylor singled leading off the eighth and Turner followed with a go-ahead, two-run homer.
Jeffress sat by himself quietly in the dugout after leaving the game, blowing bubble gum.
“It’s just, you know, the nature of the game. I can’t strike everybody out. I can’t make everybody hit a ground ball. I am human,” Jeffress said when asked how he felt mentally and physically.
“But right now I feel great. It’s just you have to make pitches in big counts. Better results will happen.”
Hader, who broke a 44-year-old record for regular-season strikeouts by a left-handed reliever, had thrown 46 pitches in the opener.
A travel day might allow the bullpen to reset heading into Game 3 Monday at Dodger Stadium, though Counsell said he would check with how his big three of Jeffress, Hader and Knebel felt on the day off. Knebel has thrown 31 pitches over two innings in the first two games.
Jeffress blew a lead for the second time in the postseason. He wasted a 2-0, ninth-inning advantage in the Division Series opener against Colorado, a game the Brewers rebounded to win in 10 innings.
“For me, J.J. made one bad pitch today,” Counsell said, “and it cost him.”
Milwaukee has been using its talented young pitchers in the postseason for multiple innings. It worked in the Division Series, but that philosophy is being tested by the Dodgers.
“I’m sure they had a scouting report before we came in,” Hader said. “We’re going to have the days that those the bloopers fall in, and there are going to be days that those bloopers get caught. It just didn’t go our way that time.”