Dodgers’ confidence against Brewers tough bullpen sky high
The Los Angeles Dodgers left Friday’s game with a loss but also a glimmer of hope after touching up the Brewers bullpen for four runs.
Knowing his team would be getting a healthy diet of bullpen arms the next afternoon – and throughout the remainder of the NLCS, for that matter – manager Dave Roberts said before Saturday’s game he felt like his squad was in a good place. That was evident when the Dodgers churned out four more runs against the Brewers bullpen on Saturday to prevail, 4-3.
“No loss essentially feels any better than another, but if you’re looking at what took place last night and for us to see leverage guys and to gather information, when you’re looking at a seven-game series, I think that it was a real benefit to us,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t change the outcome of the game, obviously, but I really saw the at-bats from our guys, there was some hard contact in there.”
Saturday, there was more. Justin Turner’s two-run homer in the eighth capped another four-run outburst against Milwaukee’s loaded bullpen, and the Dodgers returned home for three games with a chance to win the series before it returns to Miller Park.
The two games represent the first cracks in the foundation of Milwaukee’s atypical strategy of using relievers early and often.
The Brewers yielded runs in just one of 28 innings during the NLDS against the Rockies, but this series will go longer, now to at least five games after the split in the two games in Milwaukee.
“I like our approach,” Roberts said Saturday evening. “I like the position players we run out there. You can’t take anything away from that pen. They’ve done it over the course of the season, and they’re a tough pen for anyone to match up against. But I do believe – we talked about last night seeing these guys two nights in a row, I think that that plays to our advantage, and you still have to go out there and execute and put at-bats together, and that’s what our guys are doing.”
Taylor, Turner were going to be Jeffress’ only batters of the eighth
Wade Miley worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings, but the Dodgers got to Corbin Burnes for two runs in the seventh, and Turner’s home run off Jeremy Jeffress – who had finished the seventh by inducing a double play – gave LA the lead for good.
“I’m not surprised by anything these guys do,” Turner said when asked if he was surprised to see Jeffress again in the eighth. “They obviously like their bullpen and trust their bullpen and want it in the game as much as they can. I did see (Corey) Knebel was warming up, but I didn’t see if he was up in time or ready, so I got ready to face Jeffress.”
Brewers manager Craig Counsell said he expected to use Jeffress for two batters in the eighth. Chris Taylor battled for a single, and Turner sent a 2-0 pitch to deep left.
“We were just trying to keep the train moving,” said Cody Bellinger, who substituted into the game in the fifth and roped an RBI single in the sixth. “CT had a great at-bat against a really tough pitcher, and we liked our chances with JT coming up. We just wanted to keep putting pressure on those guys, and we did a great job of that today.”
Added Turner, “Everyone wants to be in there every game, all game long. That speaks to the depth our team has. We have a roster full of guys that are more than capable of doing that. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse that we have. We have so much depth and we can mix and match, and I think our guys do an incredible job of staying ready and being able to come into the middle of the game prepared and get big hits like Cody did tonight.”
That depth is a considerable challenge to the Brewers, and Josh Hader was unavailable for Game 2 after working three innings in Game 1, leaving Milwaukee without a powerhouse left-handed option.
Has the Dodgers bullpen been overlooked?
Roberts also noted that his own bullpen has done the job. Seven relievers allowed one run over 4 2/3 on Saturday, and five combined to allow one run over five innings Friday.
“These guys are competitors,” Roberts said. “And when you look across the diamond and you see people that are doing the same thing you’re doing, but are getting more notoriety or whatever, people have pride. And so I’m speaking for them, but I know these guys are taking it personal.”
Then again, the same philosophy of seeing-is-knowing applies. The Brewers now have fresh data on the Dodgers’ bullpen arms, as well.
“I do think that when you’re talking a little bit of a longer view in a series, having more information on a reliever, I think advantage hitter, and that was for us,” Roberts said before Saturday’s game.
It will be a matter of which hitters use it in Los Angeles.