MILWAUKEE – So they can hit, too.
Reliever Brandon Woodruff stunned ace Clayton Kershaw with an early home run and Milwaukee’s normally shutdown bullpen held on – barely – as the Brewers beat the sloppy Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 Friday night in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
Hard-throwing Josh Hader and the Brewers earned their 12th straight win, one shy of the franchise record set to open the 1987 season.
The Dodgers scored three times in the eighth to make it 6-4, then nearly tied it in the ninth. Chris Taylor hit an RBI triple off center fielder Lorenzo Cain’s glove with two outs before Corey Knebel fanned Justin Turner to end it.
Kershaw was chased before he could retire a batter in the fourth inning.
Manny Machado homered and drove in three runs for Los Angeles. The Dodgers committed four errors, including two by catcher Yasmani Grandal, who also had two passed balls.
Game 2 is Saturday at Miller Park, with Wade Miley pitching for the Brewers against Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell’s pitching-by-committee strategy continued to be a hit, at least until the late innings.
Finally, the hard-throwing Knebel restored order by striking out Turner. Knebel walked Joc Pederson with two outs before Taylor’s long drive.
Woodruff picked up the win and helped himself out at the plate.
After starter Gio Gonzalez went two innings, nicked by Machado’s home run, Woodruff entered in the top of the third. In the bottom half, Woodruff made a sudden impact – with his bat.
Woodruff became just the third relief pitcher to homer in the postseason, tagging a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner for a tying solo drive. Woodruff pumped both arms as he rounded first base, while Kershaw turned away and looked down at the ground.
Another miserable October night was just beginning for Kershaw, whose regular-season brilliance has often disappeared in the postseason.
And it wasn’t even Christian Yelich and the Brewers’ stars who got to him. Hernan Perez hit a sacrifice fly later in the third, and pinch-hitter Domingo Santana had a two-run single in the fourth for a 4-1 lead that chased Kershaw from the mound with nobody out.
It was the shortest postseason start of Kershaw’s career. He had a 4.65 ERA in 10 career appearances, including seven starts, going into Friday.
That ERA went up after allowing six hits and five runs – four earned – in three-plus innings.
Jesus Aguilar added a solo home run in the seventh for the Brewers, his second of the postseason. Cain went 3 for 5 and scored a run.
UP NEXTIt’s another all left-handed pitching matchup in Game 2. Ryu pitched seven shutout innings, striking out seven and allowing for hits, in the Dodgers’ Game 1 victory over the Braves in the Division Series. Ryu is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four career postseason starts. Miley is making his second start of the postseason, going 4 2/3 innings in the Brewers’ Division Series-clinching victory over Colorado on Sunday. He is 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 15 career games against the Dodgers.