LOS ANGELES – In what could have been his farewell to the only organization he has known, Clayton Kershaw allowed three hits in seven innings and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-2, Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Game 6 is Friday night in Milwaukee. The Dodgers will play for a second consecutive trip to the World Series.
In his 176th career start at Dodger Stadium – regular and postseason – Kershaw rode the deception of his off-speed pitches and had nine strikeouts. With nearly 55,000 fans leaning into his every pitch, Kershaw, who can opt out of his contract after the season, put the Dodgers one win from their 24th NL pennant.
While the Dodgers led the NL in home runs in the regular season (the Brewers were second), they have hit only two in the NLCS and none since Game 2. Not for lack of trying. In Game 5, their five runs scored on four singles and a groundout, four of those in two-strike counts.
The Brewers tricked the Dodgers into thinking Wade Miley, a left-handed cut-fastball specialist, would start. Which, technically, he did. Miley pitched to the Dodgers’ first batter of the game, Cody Bellinger.
Then Brewers manager Craig Counsell walked from the dugout to the mound, took the ball from Miley and watched Miley go after walking Bellinger. Right-handed power pitcher Brandon Woodruff, warmed and ready to go, entered from the right-field bullpen.
So, five pitches in, the Dodgers, who rely on a fairly strict matchup system when shaping their lineup, found themselves in yet another of the Brewers’ bullpen games, an occasionally frantic experience.
The Brewers’ bullpen already had covered 11 2/3 innings Tuesday night. But, the Brewers were able to swap out Gio Gonzalez, who started Tuesday and left after an inning because of a sprained ankle. He was taken off the postseason roster. Zach Davies, a right-hander who last threw a competitive pitch on Sept. 28, was activated. Woodward pitched into the sixth inning.
Having scored once in their previous 17 innings, the Brewers scored against Kershaw in the third inning. Shortstop Orlando Arcia, a .236 hitter in the regular season and the No. 8 hitter in their postseason lineup, singled with one out. Woodruff walked. Lorenzo Cain, who’d batted .156 in the first four games of the series, doubled to center field. Kershaw threw 32 pitches in his most uneven inning. The Brewers would score in the ninth thanks to a pinch-hit double from Curtis Granderson. Kenley Jansen was called on with two outs in the ninth as Mike Moustakas struck out, stranding Granderson at second base.
The Dodgers, who arrived Wednesday afternoon batting .201 in the NLCS, had their hands full against Woodruff, who pitched three scoreless innings in Game 1. They did not have a hit until Joc Pederson singled to lead off the fourth. They scored in the fifth. Chris Taylor led off with a roller into the middle of the infield that Arcia fielded and threw past first baseman Jesús Aguilar. Taylor went to second on the error, then to third on an unchallenged stolen base.
The Dodgers have been less than adequate with runners in scoring position in the series, which is why they’d scored 11 runs in four games. With Taylor at third with none out and the infield playing back, Kiké Hernández struck out. Counsell drew the infielders in against Austin Barnes, the light-hitting catcher, and Barnes bounced a single into center field.
Then, in the sixth, with Woodruff tiring – he’d throw 70 pitches, more than he had in an outing since May – the Dodgers scored twice more. Justin Turner singled and with one out Manny Machado was hit by a pitch. Max Muncy pushed a two-strike slider into left field for a run and pinch-hitter Yasiel Puig, with two out, punched a two-strike single into center field to score Machado.
Woodruff allowed three runs, two earned, over 5 1/3 innings. He had eight strikeouts.
The Dodgers are expected to start Hyun-jin Ryu in Game 6. Exceptional in his final regular-season starts and in his NLDS start against the Atlanta Braves and for the first four innings of his Game 2 NLCS start, Ryu did not finish the fifth inning of that game, in which the Dodgers won on a late home run by Turner. With one out in that fifth, 57 pitches into the game, Ryu allowed in succession a home run to Arcia, a single to Miley and a double to Cain.
Miley, who threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in Game 2, will start Game 6. Presumably.
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