Outstanding pitching is one of the main reasons the Milwaukee Brewers are the hottest team in baseball and pulling away in the NL Central.
The Brewers will try to solve Kershaw on Thursday when they go for a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park.
Milwaukee (73-51) has won 19 of 21, posting a 2.16 ERA in that stretch. The staff has been even better during a six-game winning streak, compiling a 0.82 ERA, while the bullpen hasn’t allowed a run over 19 2-3 innings in the last nine games - eight victories.
That remarkable run has the Central-leading Brewers seven games ahead of second-place St. Louis, and their next 11 games come against teams with losing records before a three-game set with the Cardinals begins Aug. 30.
“It’s definitely not locked up or anything, but if we continue playing well, it should happen,” starter Zack Greinke(notes) said. “It’s on us, mainly. We’ve just got to keep doing as good as we’re doing or close to that and make it as tough as possible on the other teams. It is ours to lose.”
Greinke certainly did his part Wednesday, allowing one run in seven innings of a 3-1 win over the Dodgers (55-67).
The Brewers improved their major league-best home record to 47-15, and won their seventh straight at Miller Park. They’ve outscored Los Angeles 8-2 in the first three games of this series, batting .212 as a team while the Dodgers have been even worse (.187).
“Our lack of offense has been fairly standard, but we know these guys can pitch a little bit,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Kershaw (14-5, 2.72 ERA) is doing the job for the Dodgers, going 8-2 with a 1.99 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 77 innings over his last 10 starts. He’s already set a career high in wins, and ranks third in the NL behind Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay(notes) and Ian Kennedy(notes) of Arizona.
The left-hander dazzled again Saturday, yielding one run and striking out nine in eight innings of a 6-1 victory over Houston.
“We’re pretty confident that if we get Kershaw a couple of runs, he’s not going to give that lead up,” center fielder Matt Kemp(notes) said. “He’s definitely one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. He’s dominating, he’s doing his thing, and I’m glad I don’t have to face him. He’s making some hitters look like they don’t have a clue of what they’re doing up there.”
Kershaw, though, has lost his last two starts against the Brewers while surrendering 10 runs and walking eight in 5 1-3 innings.
Los Angeles has dropped seven of 10, and appears bound to miss its second straight postseason.
“We realistically (are) not mathematically eliminated, but realistically we haven’t shown that we are the kind of club that can go rattle off 10 in a row,” Mattingly said.
Estrada, a reliever for the majority of the season, was terrific Saturday, allowing one hit in five innings of a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh.
The right-hander has made three relief appearances against the Dodgers - all while with Washington in 2009 - allowing one unearned run and three hits in five innings.