The Dodgers were last in a Game 7 nearly a year ago. They lost the final game of the World Series to the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium. The Brewers last played a Game 7 36 years ago. That, too, was in the World Series, the only one in which they have appeared. They lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis on Oct. 20, 1982.
The NLCS will have started the day before the ALCS and will conclude two days after the Boston Red Sox finished off the Astros. Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
In the first of what would be two elimination games for the Brewers, Wade Miley started again. He also started Game 5, a ruse, it turned out. After five pitches, he was replaced by right-hander Brandon Woodruff. On Friday night, Miley became the first pitcher to start consecutive games of a postseason series in nearly 90 years.
In the nightly battle for a half-inch’s matchup advantage, the Dodgers batted David Freese leadoff. Freese has started three regular-season games (of more than 1,100) as the leadoff hitter in his career and had never led off a game with a home run. And so on Miley’s fifth pitch, the one that announced his departure two days before, Freese hit a changeup over the fence in right-center field. His home run was the first for the Dodgers since Game 2. They led the NL in homers in the regular season.
The Brewers answered with four runs in the bottom of the first inning when left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu allowed five hits, four of them consecutively on a total of seven pitches. Ryu had been about the Dodgers’ best pitcher in the second half of the season and pitched well in the Division Series. The Brewers proved more troublesome for him, as Ryu lasted but 4 1/3 innings in Game 2. Returning in Game 6 with a chance to finish the series, Ryu allowed run-scoring hits to Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas and Erik Kratz, each on off-speed pitches. It became clear that if Ryu were to seek beneficial early counts with his curveball, the Brewers were going to hit curveballs.
The Brewers led after the first inning, 4-1. Ryu faced nine batters and threw 31 pitches. They scored again in the second inning. Christian Yelich, batting .143 in the series, doubled on a changeup and Ryan Braun doubled off a curveball. The Brewers led, 5-1. Ryu lasted three innings and the Dodgers were into their bullpen with the mixed hopes of getting back in the game while not damaging their pitching were Game 7 to become necessary.
A lively crowd rejoiced in booing Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado, who’d intentionally kicked Aguilar during Game 4. Machado was fined for the potentially dangerous lack of sportsmanship, and punished with loud derision in each of his at-bats Friday night. He struck out in his first at-bat, popped to shortstop in his second and, in his third, as the potential tying run, struck out again. The Dodgers had scored earlier in the inning when pinch-hitter Brian Dozier walked and Freese doubled to center field. With the crowd standing and booing one last time, Machado grounded to shortstop for the second out of the eighth inning.
Chacín, the slider-happy right-hander who started and won Game 3 of the NLCS, is scheduled to start Saturday night for the Brewers. The prospect of a Game 7 for Chacín, at 30 pitching in his first postseason and for an organization that has been to the World Series once before and never won one, seemed to thrill him.
“I think it’s way more than what I dream about,” he said Friday afternoon. “And just to think about it, just blow my mind away.”
That said, Brewers pitching – who starts, who else pitches, and when – has been a fluid exercise.
The Dodgers are expected to start 24-year-old Buehler, 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in the postseason. He allowed four runs in seven innings in the NLCS, opposite Chacín in Game 3.