MILWAUKEE -- Make it 10 straight wins for the Brewers.
Win once more in the next three games, and it's on to the National League Championship Series.
Jeremy Jeffress returned to form in Game 2 of the NL Division Series on Friday with two nasty innings to finish what Jhoulys Chacin began on short rest and hard-worked relievers Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria and Josh Hader continued. Then it was on to Jeffress, who rebounded from a blown save the day before to slam the door on a pitching-fueled, 4-0 win over the Rockies at Miller Park that gave Milwaukee a commanding 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series that now heads West.
"He bounced back. I knew he would," said Knebel. "He dominated two innings, and we needed it. We're 2-0 going into Colorado."
• Six outs? No problem: Jeffress bounces back
Chacin gutted through five innings without his best stuff, and Mike Moustakas and Hernan Perez hit back-to-back doubles in the fourth for the only run of what was shaping into a frustrating late afternoon for Milwaukee hitters before they broke through for three runs in the eighth inning, capped by Erik Kratz's two-run single in the 38-year-old catcher's postseason debut.
:: NLDS schedule and results ::
That was more than enough. Brewers pitchers have held the Rockies to two runs on 10 hits with 22 strikeouts in the first two games of the series, including Friday's six-hit classic.
The franchise's only other shutout victory in the postseason was a 10-0 rout of the Cardinals in Game 1 of the 1982 World Series.
Here's more postseason history: In a five-game series with the 2-2-1 format, teams that win Games 1 and 2 at home have gone on to take the series 24 of 27 times (89 percent). However, just last year, the Indians lost to the Yankees in the American League Division Series after grabbing a 2-0 lead in Cleveland.
"The story of the series so far is how we've pitched," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
This one had the potential to be a high-scoring affair, with Chacin working on short rest for the first time in his career opposite Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson, who finished the regular season with a 4.55 ERA that wasn't helped by a seven-run outing on Aug. 4 at Miller Park. In his first three career starts against the Brewers, Anderson had allowed 18 hits and 14 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings for an 8.59 ERA.
But this is October, and whether it was the hitters trying too hard to rise to the moment or the pitchers succeeding in doing so, both starters were sensational. Chacin limited Colorado to three hits and three walks in five innings, stranding those six runners with a trio of well-timed strikeouts. When Chacin fanned Nolan Arenado with three of his signature sliders to end the fifth inning with his spot in the order due up first in the bottom of the frame, he screamed in celebration and left the game in the hands of the Brewers' bullpen.
"I don't really remember it, I just know I struck out on three pitches with men on first and second, and it wasn't a good at-bat," said Arenado.
"It's unfortunate the way our pitchers have been pitching that we haven't been able to back them up these last two games," said Rockies shortstop Trevor Story.
Anderson was just as tough, bucking those regular-season numbers to allow a lone run on back-to-back doubles by Game 1 hero Moustakas and Perez in the fourth inning, but only two other hits. Anderson walked two and struck out five to give the travel-weary Rockies a chance.
The Brewers' bullpen denied it.
"You pick up no stress from them whatsoever," said Brewers bullpen coach Lee Tunnell. "We've played so many one-run games, so many two-run games, that these guys are prepared. It's like, 'OK, this is what we've been doing.' "
First up was Knebel, who added another scoreless inning to a hot streak that began in early September, when he returned from a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Including his two-strikeout sixth inning in Game 2, Knebel has worked 19 consecutive scoreless innings over 18 games with 36 strikeouts.
Soria and Josh Hader covered the seventh, with Soria logging a pair of strikeouts and Hader inducing a critical Charlie Blackmon lineout after Kratz's throwing error put a runner at third with no outs.
That left the game on the right arm of Jeffress, who allowed runs for the first time in more than a month in Game 1 the day before, when the Rockies scored twice in the ninth inning to force the Brewers to win the game in the 10th.
Jeffress inherited a 1-0 lead in the eighth and struck out NL MVP contender Trevor Story with a runner aboard to end that inning, then worked around a leadoff single in the ninth after the Brewers extended their lead on another clutch RBI for Moustakas, and Kratz's two-out, two-run single.
"I can't put into words the confidence that Counsell has for me," said Jeffress. "I'm gracious. And to see those two innings in front of me just gave me more confidence to know I've got a lot of work to do, and I can go out there and be myself. That fist pump there is to show you the passion that I have for this game."
The group effort lowered the ERA of Brewers relievers to 1.72 ERA over the last 28 games.
"They've been doing this the whole year," said Chacin. "It doesn't matter what kind of game they go in, they get the job done. I never worry about whatever happens after I pitch because I know the guys just come in and do the job."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Hader vs. Blackmon: The Rockies' best chance to change the course of the game came in the seventh inning, when Ian Desmond greeted Soria with an infield hit and took two bases on a steal plus a throwing error on the play charged to Kratz.
With the tying runner 90 feet from home and nobody out, Soria struck out Chris Iannetta and pinch-hitter Matthew Holliday, then yielded to Hader, pitching back-to-back days for only the sixth time all season and the first time since Aug. 29-30.
• Iannetta snaps bat over knee after Soria's K
Throughout the course of Hader's first full season in relief, Counsell and his coaches learned that he required rest to take the mound in top form, and Hader rewarded the strategy by leading MLB relievers with 140 strikeouts.
Friday called for an exception, and it took only two pitches for Hader to get a game-changing lineout to perfectly positioned second baseman Travis Shaw.
"I think the fact we had him up [in the bullpen] probably made Holliday the hitter instead of a lefty against Soria, so it was almost like Josh got us some help [that way] as well," said Counsell. "And then at that point, you're up 1-0 and saying, 'All right, you've got one hitter tonight. That's all you're going to have to do.' He did a nice job."
At 38 years and 112 days old, a veteran of 12 different Major League organizations and 30 Minor League teams, Kratz became the oldest position player to start his postseason debut since a slightly older 38-year-old Lave Cross of the 1905 Philadelphia A's. Cross was a third baseman.
But Kratz wasn't just trivia. He delivered one of the day's biggest hits, a bloop, two-run single off Rockies reliever Seunghwan Oh to cap a three-run eighth inning that extended Jeffress' 1-0 lead to 4-0. It was the second of Kratz's two hits, part of a productive bottom half of the batting order that produced eight hits from the Nos. 5-8 spots in the lineup.
Was it the biggest hit of Kratz's career?
"I hit a homer in the Triple-A playoffs one time," he said. "That was pretty cool."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Brewers gave away a critical out in the fourth inning after taking a 1-0 lead. Perez stole third base without a play before Travis Shaw walked.
When Shaw broke from first base with one out, Perez danced off third, as if the Brewers were trying to steal a run, but he was thrown out trying to get back to third base, where Arenado did a masterful job of blocking the bag with his foot. The Brewers challenged after seeing one replay that appeared to show Perez getting a thumb on the bag, but there wasn't enough conclusive evidence to overturn the call, so it stood. When Kratz flied out, the inning was suddenly over.
He doesn't light up the radar gun, like Game 1 initial out-getter Brandon Woodruff, or have a wipeout pitch, like Chacin's slider, but Wade Miley keeps the Brewers in games. In 16 regular-season starts, he never allowed more than three earned runs. He'll aim to do the same in Game 3 on Sunday against a Rockies team that led the NL in OPS in home games and led the NL in OPS against left-handers. German Marquez starts for Colorado.