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Brewers-Dodgers NLCS Game 5 had a very, very weird first inning

After Tuesday night's wild Game 4 walk-off win by the Dodgers, we should've known that Wednesday's Game 5 would be anything but normal. Maybe we did, maybe we just didn't realize how soon the abnormalness would present itself to us. Like, you know, in the very first inning.

Miley removed after 1 batter, will start Game 6

Veteran lefty replaced by righty Woodruff after walking Bellinger
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

LOS ANGELES -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell pulled the latest surprise maneuver in what's been a constant chess match of the National League Championship Series by removing starter Wade Miley after one batter in Game 5 on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

Your move, Dave Roberts.

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LOS ANGELES -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell pulled the latest surprise maneuver in what's been a constant chess match of the National League Championship Series by removing starter Wade Miley after one batter in Game 5 on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

Your move, Dave Roberts.

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:: NLCS schedule and results ::

Counsell's decision to go to his bullpen after Cody Bellinger led off the game with a walk essentially made an "opener" of Miley, who pitched into the sixth inning of his Game 2 start on Saturday in Milwaukee, and it lines up the lefty to start again later this series. The Brewers plan to start Miley on Friday in Game 6, according to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal.

How long Miley's leash will be in that game remains unclear.

What is known is that Miley would essentially be on regular rest should he toe the mound on Friday at Miller Park, meaning his truncated outing on Wednesday would serve as something of a typical between-starts bullpen session. Miley walked Bellinger on five pitches before he was replaced with right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who hit Justin Turner but escaped the first inning unscored upon.

Speaking before the game, Counsell declined to disclose his pitching plans for any game past Wednesday, and it's clear why. Rosenthal reports the Brewers were always planning to use Miley as an "opener" and follow him with Woodruff, who was held out of Tuesday's 13-inning Game 4 loss that saw Milwaukee use seven pitchers. Woodruff tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Gio Gonzalez in Game 1, when Gonzalez was used as a de facto opener. Woodruff homered off the Dodgers' starter that day, Clayton Kershaw, who also started Game 5.

Roberts stocked Los Angeles' lineup with right-handed hitters against the left-handed Miley, though he moved the left-handed Bellinger to the leadoff spot and started Max Muncy at second base. David Freese, who only starts against lefties, batted in the No. 3 hole, and Chris Taylor got the nod in left field instead of the left-handed-hitting Joc Pederson. Austin Barnes made his second consecutive start behind the plate in place of switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal. It's also fair to assume Counsell's move kept the right-handed-hitting Yasiel Puig, who has reverse splits, out of Roberts' starting lineup.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

Milwaukee Brewers, Wade Miley

Red Sox-Astros G4: Bregman leading off

MLB.com @brianmctaggart and @IanMBrowne

HOUSTON -- Now that the Red Sox have taken control of the American League Championship Series after beating the Astros in Game 3 on Tuesday night to take a 2-1 series lead, it will be up to Charlie Morton to keep Houston's back from being against the wall.

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HOUSTON -- Now that the Red Sox have taken control of the American League Championship Series after beating the Astros in Game 3 on Tuesday night to take a 2-1 series lead, it will be up to Charlie Morton to keep Houston's back from being against the wall.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

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Morton will face former AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello in Game 4 tonight at Minute Maid Park. The Astros' loss at home in Game 3 was only their second in their past 12 playoff games at Minute Maid Park since the start of last season.

ALCS presented by Google Assistant, Game 4: Tonight, 8:39 p.m. ET on TBS

In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that win Game 3 on the road to grab a 2-1 advantage have eventually gone on to take the series 27 of 36 times (75 percent).

The starting lineups
Red Sox: After being shut down by the Astros in Game 1, the Red Sox have started to resemble themselves again over the past two games, which means they are also very dangerous. Jackie Bradley Jr., who is notoriously streaky, is riding some confidence after huge hits in the last two games of the series, including a grand slam that broke open Game 3. Brock Holt is back in the lineup against a righty in Morton. Steve Pearce continues to contribute, so he remains in the lineup.

Gear up for the ALCS: Astros | Red Sox

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Rafael Devers, 3B
6. Steve Pearce, 1B
7. Brock Holt, 2B
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Astros: Manager AJ Hinch reworked the top of his lineup for Game 4, sliding Alex Bregman up to the leadoff spot and dropping George Springer to No. 2. Hinch hopes the move forces the Red Sox to give Bregman -- who has walked seven times in 14 plate appearances in the series' first three games -- something to hit.

"Just give them a different look with some different guys behind him," Hinch said. "George being the first guy behind him. Tony Kemp hitting ninth, I like the idea of Kemp getting on base in front of Bregman. We'll give it a different look and see if that changes their approach. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. We'll give Bregman the most at-bats today.

"I've never seen someone pitch any of our players the way that they're pitching Bregman. That's a credit to their game plan, but also they'll have a whole lineup behind him to deal with now."

Springer batted first throughout the 2017 postseason run and for each of the Astros' first six games this October. Altuve starts at designated hitter for the second straight game, giving Tony Kemp another start in left field. Martin Maldonado is back behind the plate at catcher after Brian McCann started Game 3.

"[Altuve] still didn't look entirely comfortable running [in Game 3], except for the straight line," Hinch said. "He scored from first and did the bunt straight line, and I think it took a little bit of stress off the change of directions on defense."

1. Alex Bregman, 3B
2. George Springer, CF
3. Jose Altuve, DH
4. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6. Josh Reddick, RF
7. Carlos Correa, SS
8. Martin Maldonado, C
9. Tony Kemp, LF

Who are the starting pitchers?
Red Sox: Porcello has come up big in this postseason (1-0, 1.35 ERA) as a starter and as a reliever. It is back to the rotation for Porcello, who had a big scoreless eighth inning in relief in Game 2. Porcello has pitched three times against the Astros this season, going 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA. He got the win while facing Morton back on June 3 at Minute Maid Park.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Porcello on emotions as starter, reliver

Astros: Morton will be making his first outing since throwing three innings in the Astros' regular-season finale Sept. 30 at Baltimore. He's thrown just 15 innings since coming off the disabled list Sept. 8. Houston put Morton on the DL to skip one start and rest a sore right shoulder.

Last year, Morton started against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the AL Division Series in Boston, and he allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings in the Astros' series-clinching win. In two starts against the Red Sox this year, Morton is 1-1 with a 6.97 ERA, allowing 16 hits and eight runs in 10 1/3 innings.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Morton talks staying fresh for Game 4 start

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Red Sox: From question mark to strength, Boston's bullpen is rolling in the ALCS. The relief corps fired three scoreless innings in Game 3. The Red Sox would love to get closer Craig Kimbrel on track. Though the righty is 3-for-3 in save opportunities this postseason, he has yet to have a scoreless outing. Lefty David Price could be used in the bullpen if necessary. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier continue to be the setup men manager Alex Cora trusts the most.

Astros: It should be all hands on deck for Houston, even though the club used six of its eight relief pitchers in Game 3. Closer Roberto Osuna threw the most pitches (27) among the relievers used Tuesday, but if the Astros have the lead in the ninth inning, you can bet he will get the ball. Ryan Pressly threw only 13 pitches and will definitely be available.

Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Red Sox: None.

Astros: None.

Any injuries of note?
Red Sox: Third baseman Eduardo Nunez tweaked his right ankle in Game 3 and came out in the fourth inning as a precaution. Moreland continues to make progress with the right hamstring injury he sustained in Game 2 of the AL Division Series. The left-handed hitter has reached base in all three of his pinch-hitting appearances in this series, and he has come out for a pinch-runner each time.

Astros: Altuve is still battling a sore right knee, though it didn't prevent him from getting two hits and scoring a pair of runs in Game 3, including scoring from first base on a Bregman double and later beating out a bunt hit.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Altuve hits Eovaldi's 100.8-mph fastball

Who is hot and who is not?
Red Sox: Pearce has recorded at least one hit and scored at least one run in each game he has played in this postseason … Bradley has seven RBIs in the past two games … Ian Kinsler is hitless in the two games he's started in the series … The same goes for Vazquez. In fact, Boston doesn't have a hit from any of its catchers in this series.

Video: MLB Tonight on Pearce's big ALCS Game 3

Astros: Bregman (2-for-6, seven walks, .714 on-base percentage) and Springer (4-for-13) are the only Houston players hitting better than .300 in the ALCS. Meanwhile, Gonzalez (2-for-12), Gurriel (2-for-12) and Reddick (1-for-11) have been struggling at the plate.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros

Clayton Kershaw threw a curveball that left Erik Kratz completely helpless

During the course of watching a baseball game, you've probably wondered how you would fare in the batter's box against a Major League pitcher. Would you be able to put the ball in play? How hard would it be to even make contact? Would you at least not embarrass yourself?

Thanks to the curveball Clayton Kershaw threw to Erik Kratz in the fourth inning of NLCS Game 5, we may have a realistic picture of how you or I might look against a Major League pitcher. The verdict: Not great, Bob:

Cora: Sale needs more time, will start Game 6

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start against the Astros in Game 6 in Boston on Saturday, if necessary. The club had originally hoped Sale would be ready to start Game 5 at Minute Maid Park as planned on Thursday.

Sale, who allowed two runs in four innings in Game 1 on Saturday, was hospitalized for a stomach ailment on Sunday. He was discharged from the hospital on Monday, and he flew to Houston to join the Red Sox before Game 3 on Tuesday night.

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Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start against the Astros in Game 6 in Boston on Saturday, if necessary. The club had originally hoped Sale would be ready to start Game 5 at Minute Maid Park as planned on Thursday.

Sale, who allowed two runs in four innings in Game 1 on Saturday, was hospitalized for a stomach ailment on Sunday. He was discharged from the hospital on Monday, and he flew to Houston to join the Red Sox before Game 3 on Tuesday night.

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Cora said Sale felt "weak" on Wednesday and needs extra time to get ready. Boston's Game 5 starter is undetermined, but David Price is a possibility.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale

Verlander proposes tech to avoid sign-stealing

Astros pitcher wants MLB to try wireless communication
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Justin Verlander has an idea about how to perhaps eliminate the opposition stealing signs.

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HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Justin Verlander has an idea about how to perhaps eliminate the opposition stealing signs.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

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Verlander said Wednesday he thinks Major League Baseball should adopt 21st century technology and follow the lead of the National Football League in having the catcher and pitcher be able to communicate using wireless technology. In the NFL, coaches can call plays to the quarterback in the huddle via a wireless device in the player's helmet.

Not only would it make it nearly impossible for opposing teams to steal the signs between the catcher and the pitcher, but it would also reduce the need for mound visits and better the pace of game. Beginning this year, Major League Baseball limited mound visits to six per team per game.

"You think of all the signs everybody's going through -- between pitcher/catcher, manager/catcher, especially when a guy gets on second base, I mean the game comes to a halt when that happens," Verlander said. "It's not going to help pitch tipping, but I think it will help a lot with the sign stuff. I think this is a lot to do about nothing. I think it's more peace of mind for the pitchers.

"Especially in the playoffs, you don't want there to be any lingering doubt of anything. You want the only reason you get beat to be because you got beat. You don't want to have to think it's something else. That's why you're seeing all these advanced signs."

Gear up for the ALCS

Verlander said he brought the topic of wireless communication to representatives of the MLB Players Association with hopes they could bring it up to MLB.

"I don't know how you would work it," he said. "Obviously the technology is there between quarterbacks and their team. I don't know whether it would be a one-way thing. I don't know if a lot of pitchers would want to wear a thing. But honestly, for me, somebody who calls my own game, for the most part, me being able to tell him what to throw or what I want to throw, I mean by the time the batter steps in there's no signals. There's nothing; we're ready to go."

Video: ALCS Gm5: Verlander talks 2nd half of his career

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Justin Verlander

This reliever will be in high demand this offseason

Data shows that Ottavino is among best in game out of bullpen
MLB.com @mike_petriello

The most interesting reliever available in this offseason free-agent market has relatively uninspiring career stats, at least in a traditional sense. He's never had more than seven saves in a season. His career record is 17-20; his ERA is 3.68. He's never made an All-Star team, and he won't generate the same headlines as more celebrated arms like Andrew Miller and Zach Britton might.

Absolutely none of that matters, of course. In a market full of far bigger names and much flashier stats, the reliever who is going to get the contract that shocks you is going to be Adam Ottavino, for the past seven seasons a member of the Colorado Rockies. It's not entirely about what he's done; it's about what teams think he might be able to do. That is, no team cares about Ottavino's 4.56 ERA in 2012 at this point. What can he offer in '19, '20 and '21?

The most interesting reliever available in this offseason free-agent market has relatively uninspiring career stats, at least in a traditional sense. He's never had more than seven saves in a season. His career record is 17-20; his ERA is 3.68. He's never made an All-Star team, and he won't generate the same headlines as more celebrated arms like Andrew Miller and Zach Britton might.

Absolutely none of that matters, of course. In a market full of far bigger names and much flashier stats, the reliever who is going to get the contract that shocks you is going to be Adam Ottavino, for the past seven seasons a member of the Colorado Rockies. It's not entirely about what he's done; it's about what teams think he might be able to do. That is, no team cares about Ottavino's 4.56 ERA in 2012 at this point. What can he offer in '19, '20 and '21?

We'll get there. But let's start by pointing out just how strong Ottavino was this past season, when he very legitimately was one of the best relievers in the game.

In 2018, there were 91 relievers who faced 250 batters, or about three per team. We can attempt to look at their performance independent of defense or ballpark -- important, considering where Ottavino called home -- by looking at a Statcast™ quality-of-contact metric that accounts for strikeouts, walks and the exit velocity and launch angle allowed at the point of contact. It's called "Expected wOBA," and the Major League average for relievers is .304.

By that measure, the best relievers this year were:

.211 -- Edwin Diaz, Mariners
.227 -- Blake Treinen, A's
.229 -- Adam Ottavino, Rockies
.230 -- Josh Hader, Brewers
.236 -- Dellin Betances, Yankees
.241 -- Ryan Pressly, Twins/Astros
.244 -- Taylor Rogers, Twins
.247 -- Wade Davis, Rockies 

... and whether or not you're familiar with that particular metric, the names make sense. Diaz, Treinen and Hader just had three historically strong seasons by just about any measure. Betances bounced back from an up-and-down 2017 to strike out 115 in 66 2/3 innings for the Yankees, and we've been talking up Pressly as a breakout star for months. (What of the relatively unknown Rogers, you say? Perhaps we should be talking about him; he struck out 75 in 68 1/3 innings and allowed just three home runs.)

The point is that it's a list you want to be near the top of, and it might be about now that you're noticing that we're saying that Ottavino was essentially as good as Hader, so let's talk about that.

Video: NYM@COL: Ottavino K's Plawecki, the side in the 8th

Hader struck out more batters (46.7 percent) than Ottavino did (36.3 percent). He also walked fewer (9.8 percent) than Ottavino did (11.7 percent). Advantage: Hader.

But when contact was made, Ottavino was harder to square up. His 29.9 percent hard-hit rate was better than Hader's 31.8 percent; his 43 percent ground-ball rate was much higher than Hader's 28.9 percent.

Ottavino isn't as dominating as Hader, not in a pure strikeout sense. But there's value in preventing damage on batted balls, too, and thanks to inducing softer contact and keeping the ball on the ground more, Ottavino closed the gap. Hader may have been the National League's standout reliever in 2018; Ottavino wasn't far behind. 

Those numbers are not park-adjusted, remember, which means that so far, Ottavino hasn't been given any credit for the difficulties of his home park. (Not that he had many; he was actually much better at home this year, .124/.223/.195, than he was on the road, .184/.305/.272.)

If we go ahead and do that with a park-adjusted stat like OPS+, where 100 is "league average," we'll get some very similar names. Among all relievers who threw 50 innings this year:

14 OPS+ -- Jose Leclerc, Rangers
17 OPS+ -- Blake Treinen, A's
33 OPS+ -- Josh Hader, Brewers
33 OPS+ -- Edwin Diaz, Mariners
34 OPS+ -- Adam Ottavino, Rockies
37 OPS+ -- Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
40 OPS+ -- Seranthony Dominguez, Phillies

Ottavino is again in the top five, right by Treinen, Hader and Diaz. (LeClerc may be the best reliever you don't know, as he put up a 1.56 ERA and struck out 85 in 57 2/3 innings for Texas.)

So it's not at all hard to make the case that Ottavino was one of the five best regular relievers in the game in 2018, and therefore it's not that hard to look at the list of available free-agent relievers and show that he's going to be one of the most sought-after arms there. Let's take a somewhat-arbitrary list of the 10 biggest names who should be available this offseason, and compare Ottavino with each of them based on their 2018 stats. He fares very well.

Ottavino doesn't have the name value of many of those other guys, obviously, in part because he's never been a regular closer. Then again, name value isn't what sells in the market, either, especially when you realize that some of these pitchers are coming off extremely difficult seasons.

Greg Holland, for example, is best known as a Kansas City postseason hero. But he missed all of 2016 due to injury, had a great first half of '17 as Ottavino's teammate with Colorado, then struggled down the stretch, had a 7.92 ERA with St. Louis last season and was designated for assignment in July. (He surfaced with Washington and was somewhat better.) Holland's former teammate on those clubs, Kelvin Herrera, saw his strikeout rate drop from 30.4 percent in '16 to 20.8 percent this year, thanks in part to a right shoulder problem, even before season-ending foot surgery.

Miller missed time this year with injuries to his left hamstring, right knee and throwing shoulder, while posting his lowest strikeout rate since becoming a reliever in 2012. His running mate in Cleveland, Cody Allen, just put up a 4.70 ERA amidst a big home run problem. 

Britton missed much of 2017 with a forearm strain, then didn't start his '18 until June after an offseason Achilles tear. While he was his usual groundballing self with the Yankees, he also struck out only 19.8 percent of hitters, a far cry from his elite 31.2 percent mark in '15. Jeurys Familia, meanwhile, has missed time with arm injuries in each of the past two years, though his performance for the Mets and A's was still solid.

That's not to say that none of these guys had good years -- Justin Wilson and David Robertson each did -- or that Ottavino is immune from health issues himself. (He had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and missed a few weeks with an oblique strain suffered in May.) 

Video: SD@COL: Ottavino strikes out Pirela, side in the 9th

It's not that Ottavino was always this good, either, which is why his career stats don't mean all that much. Last offseason, he famously set up shop in a vacant storefront in Manhattan and set to work with high-tech cameras in an attempt to improve his pitches.

"Sometimes what your brain is telling you is happening is not really happening," Ottavino told FanGraphs earlier this year. "[The high-speed] cameras cut the timeline down immensely. [Without the cameras,] it's trial and error that could have taken years. But with the cameras, it was like four days and I was on the right track."

In 2016, Ottavino threw first-pitch strikes just 47 percent of the time; in '18, that number increased to 60 percent. When he threw pitches in the zone, his contact rate dropped from 88 percent to 80 percent, but at the same time, he got hitters to chase at more pitches outside the zone, increasing from 22 percent to 26 percent.

It was the better control, combined with the video game-like movement on Ottavino's slider, that made him such a different pitcher in 2018. He might not have the name value of Miller, Britton or Holland, or the save totals of Familia or Allen. He's not Craig Kimbrel, because few relievers ever have been. But most of that doesn't matter, not really. Ottavino is going to be a very in-demand reliever this offseason. When he gets a larger contract than longtime stars like Adam Jones or Andrew McCutchen, don't be surprised. Be impressed.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

Adam Ottavino

Corbin's slider-heavy approach about to pay off

D-backs lefty is top starter hitting free agency thanks to dominant breaking ball
MLB.com @_dadler

The top starting pitcher in the 2019 free-agent class is also the perfect representative for the evolving philosophy on the mound in the modern game.

The pitcher: Patrick Corbin, the 29-year-old D-backs left-hander who had the strongest season of any free-agent-to-be hurler, posted a 3.15 ERA over 33 starts, striking out 246 batters in 200 innings and amassing 6.3 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs. The philosophy: Throw your best pitch more often, even if it's not your fastball, and even at the fastball's expense.

The top starting pitcher in the 2019 free-agent class is also the perfect representative for the evolving philosophy on the mound in the modern game.

The pitcher: Patrick Corbin, the 29-year-old D-backs left-hander who had the strongest season of any free-agent-to-be hurler, posted a 3.15 ERA over 33 starts, striking out 246 batters in 200 innings and amassing 6.3 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs. The philosophy: Throw your best pitch more often, even if it's not your fastball, and even at the fastball's expense.

Corbin is slider-dominant -- one of the heaviest slider users among starting pitchers. He threw sliders 40.9 percent of the time in 2018, his most-used pitch by more than 10 percent over his sinker (29.5 percent). Combining that with his curveball, Corbin threw breaking pitches 50.3 percent of the time this season. Only Clayton Kershaw threw more. They were the only regular starters who threw breaking balls on more than half of their pitches.

Highest breaking ball* usage rate among starting pitchers in 2018
Minimum 1,000 total pitches thrown (166 starting pitchers)
1. Kershaw: 56.6 percent
2. Corbin: 50.3 percent
3. Garrett Richards: 49.6 percent
4. Jordan Zimmermann: 49.0 percent
5. Jon Gray: 48.7 percent
Breaking: Curveballs, sliders, knuckleballs

Not too long ago, Corbin's style of pitching would have been rarely seen. Now, it's become increasingly prevalent in today's MLB. And it's going to earn Corbin a big free-agent contract.

The results speak for themselves. On the 356 plate appearances decided on Corbin's slider, opposing batters hit just .145 and slugged just .243. Corbin racked up 195 strikeouts on sliders alone, meaning 54.8 percent of those 356 plate appearances resulted in a K. Batters missed on 53.7 percent of their total swings at Corbin's slider -- 387 of 721 -- the highest slider whiff rate generated by any starting pitcher.

It was, simply, a dominant pitch, and Corbin made sure to use it as such. Consider this: Corbin's 196 strikeouts on sliders were 71 more than any other pitcher. His 387 total swings-and-misses on sliders were 176 more than any other pitcher. That's an incredible gap. No Major League leader in strikeouts or swings-and-misses on any other pitch type had as large a margin over the next-closest pitcher.

Video: ATL@ARI: Corbin strikes out Camargo swinging in 1st

Most strikeouts on sliders in 2018
1. Corbin: 195
2. Jakob Junis: 124
3. Luis Severino: 119
4 (tie). Chris Sale: 117
4 (tie). Dylan Bundy: 117

Most swings-and-misses on sliders in 2018
1. Corbin: 387
2. Chris Archer: 211
3. Severino: 200
4. Gray: 189
5. Bundy: 187

There's a strong chance Corbin ends up with the largest deal of any free-agent starter. If Kershaw doesn't opt out of his contract with the Dodgers, Corbin's main competition would be Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton, who are all older, or maybe even someone like Nathan Eovaldi, who's the same age, but more of a question mark, having just pitched his first season back from Tommy John surgery.

His breaking-ball-first style makes him an outlier even when compared to other recent marquee free-agent starting pitchers. Out of all the free agent classes this decade, only once has the largest contract gone to a starter who didn't throw primarily fastballs. That was two years ago, when Rich Hill -- another face of the secondary-stuff-first movement, whose curveball-heavy approach sparked his remarkable Major League comeback -- was the top starting pitcher signee, getting a three-year, $48 million deal from the Dodgers.

Here are each of the top free-agent starting pitcher signings by year since 2010, how often they threw fastballs (four-seam, two-seam, sinker or cutter) in the season leading up to their free agency, and their most-used individual pitch:

Top MLB free-agent starting pitcher signing by year, 2010-17
2017: Yu Darvish (6 years, $126 million) -- 66.5 percent fastballs (most-used: four-seamer)
2016: Hill (3 years, $48 million) -- 46.9 percent fastballs (most-used: curveball)
2015: David Price (7 years, $217 million) -- 68.6 percent fastballs (most-used: four-seamer)
2014: Max Scherzer (7 years, $210 million) -- 55.0 percent fastballs (most-used: four-seamer)
2013: Matt Garza (4 years, $50 million) -- 63.5 percent fastballs (most-used: four-seamer)
2012: Zack Greinke (6 years, $147 million) -- 64.3 percent fastballs (most-used: four-seamer)
2011: C.J. Wilson (5 years, $77.5 million) -- 67.1 percent fastballs (most-used: sinker)
2010: Cliff Lee (5 years, $120 million) -- 83.3 percent fastballs (most-used: two-seamer)

But Corbin is on a different level than even Hill. Hill was more of a best-option-available signing, a 35-year-old veteran with a long injury history who embraced a forward-thinking approach to find new success in the big leagues. Corbin is a frontline starter in his prime whose best pitch is not his fastball, and that pitch is about to command a major contract.

Interestingly, some of the teams he's been linked to leading up to Hot Stove season are no strangers to secondary-pitch-heavy starters. The Yankees -- who are expected to pursue Corbin and who look like an ideal fit for the left-hander -- already have Masahiro Tanaka, who throws fewer fastballs than any other starter in the Majors, at the top end of their rotation. The Braves, who also could look to sign Corbin, got a breakout year from Mike Foltynewicz in 2018 after Folty spiked the usage of his own wipeout slider, with a corresponding dip in fastball usage, even though he has one of the highest-velocity fastballs among starting pitchers.

So while Corbin might be one of the first big-ticket, big-breaking-ball free-agent starting pitchers, he almost certainly won't be the last, especially if he and his slider pay off big for the team that signs him.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Patrick Corbin

Rumors: Machado, Yanks, Morton, Storen, Oh

The latest MLB free agent and trade rumors for Hot Stove season
MLB.com

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

Cashman has no comment on Machado's lack of hustle, says Sanchez isn't available
Oct. 17: Since news broke that shortstop Didi Gregorius would need to undergo Tommy John surgery -- he had the procedure Wednesday -- speculation has increased about the Yankees' intention to pursue Manny Machado in free agency.

Meanwhile, Machado has drawn some negative attention for his lack of hustle in the NLCS vs. the Brewers. Although Machado's name wasn't specifically mentioned, Brian Cashman was asked about the situation when the Yankees general manager called into "The Michael Kay Show" on Wednesday.

"If somebody is an otherworldly talent that doesn't run hard to first base all the time, would that be somebody the Yankees would want to put in their clubhouse?" Kay asked.

Cashman, though, wouldn't take the bait.

"Boy, you're really good at what you do," Cashman said, good-naturedly. "You're trying to Jedi mind trick me into answering a question that would put me into the abyss at MLB."

Video: MLB Now looks at Machado not running out a grounder

However, Cashman did have an emphatic answer when asked whether he had any pause about moving forward with Gary Sanchez as the Yankees' starting catcher after the slugger's disappointing season.

"I believe in Gary Sanchez," Cashman said. "Clearly it's up to us to continue to find ways to unlock what he's capable of.

"I'm already getting phone calls, to be honest, clubs trying to knock on our door to see if he's available, and he's not."

Morton set for showcase start in ALCS Game 4
Oct. 17: Trailing the Red Sox, two games to one, in the ALCS, the Astros will turn to right-hander Charlie Morton to start Game 4 on Wednesday. Morton is set to become a free agent after this season, and this could be the final chance for potential suitors to get a look at him.

The right-hander will likely be one of the most coveted free-agent starters regardless of Wednesday's results, as he has gone 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA and a 10.4 K/9 rate in 55 regular-season starts over two years with Houston. He was also outstanding in the World Series last year, allowing two runs in 10 1/3 innings and getting the final 12 outs of Game 7.

Granted, there's a chance that Morton, who has pondered retirement, will never enter free agency, as he might be willing to accept the $17.9 million qualifying offer to stay in Houston for one more year before calling it a career.

Storen hoping to make comeback after missing 2018
Oct. 17: More than a year removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery, reliever Drew Storen is hoping to make a comeback in 2019, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported via Twitter on Wednesday.

The right-hander underwent the procedure Sept. 26, 2017, and missed the entire '18 campaign while recovering. Per Heyman, the 31-year-old free agent is throwing his full arsenal of pitches and is ready to showcase himself to Major League clubs.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Drew Storen sat last year out after Tommy John surgery but he���s throwing his full arsenal of pitches now & is ready to showcase for teams. Storen, still only 30, appears ready to go as the video suggests: pic.twitter.com/qXuj4PcUX3

Storen posted a 4.45 ERA over 54 2/3 innings with the Reds in '17, but he owns a lifetime 3.45 ERA with 99 saves in eight big league seasons.

Oh wants to return to KBO
Oct. 17: Seunghwan Oh wants to return to the Korea Baseball Organization after three seasons in MLB, the Rockies reliever told Korean news outlets Wednesday.

Oh has a guaranteed $2.5 million salary with the Rockies for next season, as the vesting option in his contract kicked in after he made 70 appearances this year. But the 36-year-old's preference appears to be to go back to the league where he pitched his first nine professional seasons. Oh first left the KBO for Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball in 2014, then jumped to the Major Leagues in 2016.

"I am a bit exhausted after spending five seasons in Japan and the United States," Oh said. "I feel like I want to return to the KBO while I still have the energy to help the team and pitch in front of home fans. I can't make this decision alone. I'll have to speak with my agency about the next season."

Oh also said, "It's not easy living in a foreign country. You have to face the opposing hitters on the mound, and there are a lot of other things you have to battle off the field. Everything away from the stadium is an extension of competition."

If Oh does, in fact, leave the Majors, the Rockies would have to replace a key bullpen spot for 2019. After the Rockies acquired him in July, Oh became an important member of what was at times a shaky relief corps in Colorado, posting a 2.53 ERA in 25 appearances down the stretch with 24 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. Oh pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in the Rockies' NL Wild Card Game win over the Cubs, keeping the game tied in the 10th and 11th innings. He allowed two runs in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Brewers, but pitched a scoreless inning in Game 3.

Adam Ottavino, probably the team's best reliever this season, is also set to become a free agent. Without Oh, addressing the bullpen this winter, which would already have been a priority for the Rockies, would become even more critical.

Blue Jays could have significant roster turnover this offseason
Oct. 17: The Blue Jays began their rebuild during the 2018 season by shipping out a number of veterans, including Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Roberto Osuna and Curtis Granderson, and that process could continue this offseason.

On Wednesday, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca detailed an extensive offseason plan for Toronto that involves the club trading catcher Russell Martin and designated hitter Kendrys Morales while eating a large portion of both players' salaries.

Nicholson-Smith also suggests that the Jays trade infielder Aledmys Diaz for right-hander Sonny Gray, whom the Yankees are known to be shopping. With Didi Gregorius recovering from Tommy John surgery, Diaz would give the Yanks insurance at shortstop in case they don't sign Manny Machado.

As part of Nicholson-Smith's plan, the Jays would come away with free-agent starter Trevor Cahill and deal for Marlins reliever Adam Conley as well, while picking up first baseman Justin Smoak's $8 million club option and declining infielder Yangervis Solarte's $5.5 million club option.

Per Nicholson-Smith, if this plan is executed, the Jays will open up more playing time for youngsters while also putting themselves in position to have some attractive targets to move before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Kershaw still undecided on opt out clause
Oct. 16: Clayton Kershaw is expected to opt out of his contract with the Dodgers after this season and test the free-agent market, according to a recent report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. And the left-hander was asked whether he had made a decision on the matter within the context that he could be making his final career start with the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series today, should the Dodgers fail to advance. 

"I have not made a decision," Kershaw said. "And to my understanding you get 10 days after the World Series. So should be a busy 10 days."

Kershaw, 30, was referencing the 10-day period after the World Series in which he will be mandated to make a decision of whether to opt out of the two years and just over $70 million remaining on a seven-year, $215 million contract he signed with the Dodgers prior to the 2014 season.

When asked if he had been processing things differently this postseason given his well-accoladed history with Los Angeles, and the potential that this could be his last with the Dodgers, Kershaw said: "Trying not to. I think it's hard enough to try and win a postseason game. I know more than anybody knows that. So, I think for me it's just trying to focus as much as I possibly can on the Brewers and getting ready for tomorrow's start. And putting everything else on the back burner as best I possibly can."

Video: NLCS Gm 5: Roberts on expectations for Kershaw

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts echoed Kershaw's sentiment and focus when he was asked about Kershaw's uncertain future with the club. 

"You bring it up to my attention and I'm sure -- I guess it's a reality," Roberts said. "But I think that for me it's just thinking about tonight and tomorrow with Clayton pitching for us. And so I don't get too far ahead of that, no."

Kershaw, the '14 NL MVP Award winner and three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, has dealt with lingering back issues the past three seasons and was limited to just 26 starts this year, so it is far from certain that the left-hander would be able to find a suitor for another longterm deal. However, he'd likely be able to sign for more than the two years he has left on his current pact with the Dodgers. More >

Eovaldi, Keuchel turn in strong performances in ALCS Game 3
Oct. 16: With not only a national audience of fans watching, but also potential suitors in free agency, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel each turned in formidable performances during Boston's 8-2 win in ALCS Game 3 on Tuesday. 

Ahead of ALCS Game 3, MLB.com's Mike Petriello broke down how both Eovaldi and Keuchel could be among the most coveted free agent starting pitchers this offseason.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Eovaldi K's 4, allows 2 ER over 6

Eovaldi, who Boston acquired from Tampa Bay ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline explicitly to make starts such as Tuesday's, allowed two runs on six hits and two walks over six strong innings while averaging a whopping 98.8 mph on his four-seam fastball and topping out at 101 mph. Eovaldi's blemishes came in the fifth inning, when he walked Jose Altuve in a full count with two outs and then surrendered a game-tying double to the red-hot Alex Bregman. Eovaldi eventually got out of the fifth with no more damage and returned to toss a scoreless sixth. 

Eovaldi's stock appears to be on the rise after undergoing multiple surgeries to repair his pitching arm, including two Tommy John operations. After missing all of the 2017 season and the first two months of '18 while recovering from the latest tear in his right elbow, Eovaldi bounced back to go 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA over 12 regular season outings -- and he's been even better in his first career postseason. In addition to Tuesday, Eovaldi tossed seven scoreless innings in the Red Sox's 16-1 win over the Yankees of Game 3 of the AL Division Series last Tuesday,. 

Keuchel on Tuesday gave up three of the four hits he surrendered and two runs in the first inning -- a one-run double to J.D. Martinez and an RBI groundout to Xander Bogaerts -- then threw four scoreless frames to finish his outing. He also issued two walks, and left with a 2-1 deficit, as the Astros' loss fell on the shoulders of their bullpen. 

Video: ALCS Gm3: Keuchel on his start, Astros' Game 3 loss

Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, may have seen his stock drop some in 2018 after two All-Star appearances over the three seasons prior, but the left-hander is nonetheless considered one of the better starting arms that will be available in free agency. After being limited in consecutive seasons due to injuries (left shoulder pain in '16 and neck discomfort in '17), Keuchel eclipsed the 200-inning plateau for the third time in '18, going 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA. 

Marlins add more international bonus pool money with eye on three Cuban prospects
Oct. 16: The Marlins created more financial flexibility on Tuesday to make an aggressive run at the three coveted Cuban prospects they've been pursuing this offseason, trading Minor Leaguers Adonis Giron and Brayan De Paula to the Astros for $500,000 in international bonus pool money, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. 

The latest of their three trades this offseason is believed to have pushed Miami's international bonus pool ahead of the Orioles' $6.7 million for the MLB high. That would put them in a more favorable position to sign Cuban prospects Victor Victor Mesa, his brother, Victor Mesa Jr., and Sandy Gaston, who were each granted free agency by MLB a few weeeks ago, making them eligible to sign at any time.

Video: Hill discusses hosting Mesa, Gaston at showcase

Tuesday's trade was the Marlins' third this offseason that was largely geared at adding international talent. On Oct. 10, they traded right-hander Kyle Barraclough to the Nationals for $1 million and on Oct. 6, they traded right-handed pitching prospect Ryan Lillie to the Reds for $750,000. 

Before the two deals, the Marlins had $4.3 million in their international allotment, behind only the Orioles. How much that gap has narrowed isn't yet known.

Victor Victor Mesa, 22, and Victor Jr., 18, are both outfielders. Gaston is a 16-year-old right-hander. Victor Victor Mesa is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the top international prospect on the market, and Gaston is ranked 16th. More >

Kluber, Paxton, MadBum among SP trade candidates who could shake up offseason
Oct. 16: Last offseason, clubs had limited options when it came to free-agent starting pitchers, but the market was bolstered by the availability of Gerrit Cole, who was traded to the Astros and ended up being one of the best additions any team made over the past year.

In a story for the New York Post on Tuesday, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman shared a handful of names who could do the same for the market if they are made available this offseason, with the Indians' Corey Kluber, the Mariners' James Paxton and the Giants' Madison Bumgarner among them.

Based on contract escalators tied to his finishes in Cy Young Award voting, Kluber is expected to be owed $17 million for next season, with club options for 2020 and '21 that could be worth up to $17.5 million and $18 million, respectively.

Sherman argues the Indians would still be prohibitive favorites in a weak AL Central even if they traded Kluber, who will turn 33 years old in April and has struggled in each of the past two postseasons, as the club could use that money to address other needs on the roster.

As for Paxton, Sherman notes that the Mariners have few ways to significantly improve their situation, given their old, expensive core and poor farm system. Trading the big left-hander, who can become a free agent after the 2020 campaign and has never thrown more than 160 1/3 innings in a season, could be a way to address some of their needs.

Bumgarner, meanwhile, has a $12 million club option for 2019 and should draw significant trade interest despite showing signs of decline in '18. Per Sherman, it could make sense for the Giants to deal the left-hander now, as they are unlikely to be serious contenders in '19 and would be taking a major risk by signing him to an extension.

Also part of Sherman's list were the D-backs' Robbie Ray and the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez, who both dealt with injuries in '18 but have displayed ace potential in the past. Ray can become a free agent after 2020, while Martinez is controllable for five more seasons if his club options are picked up for '22 ($17 million) and '23 ($18 million).

Machado, Grandal on opposite tracks in postseason
Oct. 16: One run of postseason games might not outweigh the full body of work of the regular season, but it leaves an impression. And two of the Dodgers' key free-agents-to-be, Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal, have been trending in opposite directions this October.

Machado, one of the two marquee names hitting the market this winter along with Bryce Harper, has been heating up. After a slow-ish start to the playoffs -- which still included the decisive two-run homer in the Dodgers' Game 2 NLDS win over the Braves -- the superstar shortstop has three multi-hit efforts and a pair of home runs in his last four games. In the NLCS, Machado is 5-for-11 with a homer and a double (although there have been questions about his hustle after he didn't run hard on a groundout in Game 2).

Grandal, on the other hand, has struggled offensively and behind the plate. He's hitting just .136 this postseason (3-for-22) with one homer. But Grandal's defense has been the most visible issue. He's had two nightmarish games in the NLCS, both of which have resulted in the Dodgers replacing him with Austin Barnes for the following game.

In Game 1, a one-run loss, Grandal had two errors and two passed balls -- becoming the first catcher in postseason history with multiple errors and multiple passed balls in the same game. Barnes then started Game 2. Grandal returned for Game 3, but had another tough night in another Dodgers loss. He couldn't block a wild pitch in the sixth inning, which brought home a run for the Brewers, and he had a passed ball in the eighth. After that, Barnes will start Tuesday's Game 4.

That's now two straight postseasons Grandal has lost playing time to Barnes. Last year, Barnes started 13 of the Dodgers' 15 playoff games at catcher, including all seven World Series games, compared to just two starts for Grandal.

Even after Grandal's impressive 2018 regular season -- he hit the second-most home runs among catchers (24) and the third-highest wRC+ (125, meaning he was 25 percent better than a league-average hitter) -- that's not what potential suitors want to see in October out of a free-agent target, especially one who could be an important signing at a critical position.

Braves enter winter with flexibility to address needs
Oct. 15: The Braves could be major players in free agency. The club will have considerable financial flexibility with at least $60 million to spend this winter, reported MLB.com's Mark Bowman. 

Atlanta enters the offseason with needs at catcher and in the outfield, bullpen and starting rotation. The Braves could go a number of directions once free agency opens, but they'll likely make another run at Marlins All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and explore the trade market before any aggressive signings, per Bowman. They could also pursue D-backs pitcher Patrick Corbin, one of the top arms on the market.

Tweet from @mlbbowman: Today���s session with Anthopoulos confirmed the Braves will have plenty financial flexibility. Specifics weren���t revealed, but it appears they���ll have at least $60M to fill multiple needs: Catcher, OF, Bullpen depth, a SP, but only if Corbin or another frontline option makes sense

After being eliminated by the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, the Braves' first move of the offseason was signing manager Brian Snitker to a two-year contract Monday that includes an option for the 2021 season.

Giants could pursue Harper, but competition expected to be fierce
Oct. 15: Although Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the two biggest names set to hit free agency this offseason, play different positions, the markets for both players will surely dovetail in some way.

For instance, the Giants are expected to be one of the suitors for Harper, and their pursuit could be indirectly affected by the Yankees, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out Saturday.

With the news that shortstop Didi Gregorius is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery, many now speculate that the Yankees will make a greater push for Machado.

If that happens, and New York comes away with Machado, it could in turn make the Dodgers -- Machado's current team -- more likely to make a serious push for Harper. That could be bad news for the Giants, as Los Angeles will likely be able to outbid San Francisco for Harper and is arguably a more attractive landing spot for the superstar outfielder.

Could Goldschmidt be a fit for Yankees?
Oct. 15: Facing a critical juncture this offseason after missing the playoffs in 2018, the D-backs are reportedly expected to listen to offers for a number of their top players, including Paul Goldschmidt.

The problem for Arizona, as ESPN's Buster Olney noted via Twitter, is that there aren't a lot of obvious fits for Goldschmidt, as many contenders are set at first base. However, Olney speculates that the Yankees could enter the mix for the six-time All-Star, who can become a free agent after the 2019 season.

Tweet from @Buster_ESPN: As has been reported, the D-Backs will listen to offers on their best players, including Paul Goldschmidt. Most contenders are locked in at 1B for 2019; the Cubs have Rizzo, for example. Total speculation: One team that could be a great fit for a Goldschmidt deal -- the Yankees.

Tweet from @Buster_ESPN: This is all speculation... To add: for Goldschmidt, hitting in Yankee Stadium as he went through his free-agent season, in the middle of a deep lineup, could be a great development for him, as well.

New York's current options at first base include in-season acquisition Luke Voit and Greg Bird, who hasn't been able to stay healthy or consistently produce during his big league tenure. The Yankees will need to decide if either player is a long-term answer.

Voit seemingly has the inside edge to earn a starting job in 2019, as he hit .322 with 15 homers in only 47 games with the club and became an everyday lineup fixture down the stretch. But Voit will be 28 on Opening Day, and he'll need to show that his 2018 performance was not a fluke.

Meanwhile, Goldschmidt remains one of the best hitters in baseball, recording a .290 average with 33 homers and a .922 OPS in 2018, and he could help the Yankees close the gap with the Red Sox and Astros in the AL.

Rockies facing big questions this offseason
Oct. 15: Before the Rockies make a bid for their third straight postseason appearance in 2019, they will need to answer a number of pressing questions about their roster this offseason, which Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post broke down Sunday.

Among those questions is what to do about impending free agents DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez and Adam Ottavino. Saunders considers it unlikely that the Rockies will re-sign LeMahieu and Ottavino, and he speculates that the club could look to move on from Gonzalez as well, even though the outfielder has expressed interest in returning.

While that would give Colorado three big holes to address, it doesn't necessarily mean the club will look to the free-agent market for replacements, especially considering the mixed results the Rockies have gotten from recent signings such as Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, a quartet that will take up a sizable portion of the payroll in 2019. The Rockies may also look to work on a contract extension with Nolan Arenado, who can become a free agent after next season.

As a result, greater importance will likely be placed on low-cost youngsters such as David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rodgers and Raimel Tapia in 2019.

Unconventional pitching decisions in playoffs

MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

The Brewers have flipped conventional pitching methods for just about all of 2018, and in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Brewers manager Craig Counsell showed he still has more tricks up his sleeve.

Seeing the Dodgers' lineup stacked up with six right-handed batters against Brewers left-handed starter Wade Miley, Counsell came into Wednesday's matchup with a plan to pull Miley after one batter for right-handed reliever Brandon Woodruff, and then start Miley again in Game 6 on Friday. The plan shocked the baseball world, but it was not completely unprecedented. In fact, Counsell may have taken a page directly from some of the most successful managers in history for his gambit in Los Angeles.

View Full Game Coverage

The Brewers have flipped conventional pitching methods for just about all of 2018, and in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Brewers manager Craig Counsell showed he still has more tricks up his sleeve.

Seeing the Dodgers' lineup stacked up with six right-handed batters against Brewers left-handed starter Wade Miley, Counsell came into Wednesday's matchup with a plan to pull Miley after one batter for right-handed reliever Brandon Woodruff, and then start Miley again in Game 6 on Friday. The plan shocked the baseball world, but it was not completely unprecedented. In fact, Counsell may have taken a page directly from some of the most successful managers in history for his gambit in Los Angeles.

View Full Game Coverage

Here are some managerial decisions that come to mind in light of Milwaukee's surprise switch.

2000 NL Division Series Game 1: Tony La Russa shields Rick Ankiel
La Russa would later call this move "a big mistake," but one could understand his thought process at the time. The Cardinals' manager brought veteran Darryl Kile to the NLDS news conference and had him answer questions as if he were St. Louis' Game 1 starter, only to turn around and tab the 20-year-old Ankiel to start the contest against Atlanta. La Russa intended to protect his young starter from the limelight, but it may have added more pressure in the end. In the third inning, Ankiel became the first pitcher in modern history to throw five wild pitches in a single frame, and he exited the game after allowing four runs and walking six.

Ankiel's woes continued through the NLCS and into the 2001 season, eventually prompting his demotion to Rookie-level baseball. He would later make a triumphant return to the Majors as a skilled outfielder, but there's no question that the '00 postseason altered Ankiel's career.

Video: 2000 NLDS Gm1: Ankiel throws five wild pitches

1990 NLCS Game 6: Jim Leyland turns on the Power
With his Pirates on the verge of elimination against the Reds, Leyland yanked 35-year-old journeyman Ted Power out of his bullpen and onto the mound for the biggest start of his life. The right-handed Power had not started a game all season for Pittsburgh, but Leyland felt he a better chance to neutralize Cincinnati's potent righty hitters (including Eric Davis, Barry Larkin and Chris Sabo) than the presumed southpaw starter, Zane Smith.

''Look at it this way," said Pirates pitching coach Ray Miller, "all we're doing is starting the game in the seventh inning."

It was a glimpse of the "opener" trend that emerged during the 2018 season, and it worked in a sense. Power allowed just one run before turning the game over to Smith in the third, but Pittsburgh's hitters could not figure out Cincinnati's late-inning trio of Danny Jackson, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers. The Reds prevailed, 2-1, and went on to sweep the A's in the World Series.

1929 World Series Game 1: Howard Ehmke rewards Connie Mack
Ehmke was a reliable starter who was nearing the end of his time, and the writing was on the wall that the 1929 campaign could be his last in Philadelphia. With the A's holding a comfortable lead in the American League standings, Mack shut Ehmke down in mid-September and told him to scout the Cubs, Philly's likely World Series opponent.

The A's had two bona-fide aces in Hall of Famer Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw, but Mack, with inherent trust in the well-rested Ehmke, shocked everyone by tabbing the 35-year-old to start Game 1 of the Fall Classic at Wrigley Field. All Ehmke did was limit the Cubs to one run and set a World Series record with 13 strikeouts over a brilliant complete-game effort, rewarding the legendary Mack for one of the biggest leaps of faith in baseball history. The A's went on to win the Series in five.

Video: WS1929 Gm 1: Ehmke an unlikely hero for the A's

1924 World Series Game 7: Bucky Harris dekes John McGraw
Counsell's move in Game 5 most directly calls back to Harris, the Hall of Fame manager of the Washington Senators, in the decisive Game 7 in 1924. All indications pointed toward Harris going with left-hander George Mogridge, a 16-game winner in the regular season, to face the Giants in the biggest game of the season. But Harris instead tabbed 23-year-old righty Curly Ogden, who had made just 16 starts for the Senators after coming over to Washington midseason. Newspapers speculated that Harris was simply looking for a fresh arm after starters Mogridge, Walter Johnson and Tom Zachary had logged heavy innings in the series.

"The casualties of shell-ridden 'pitchers' hill' have been so heavy upon both baseball armies," stated The Associated Press, "that the two generals will be compelled to put their fortunes up to the youths of virtually untried capacity in today's deciding game."

But the 28-year-old Harris had something else in mind. Facing legendary Giants manager John McGraw (already a three-time World Series champion), Washington's fresh-faced skipper selected Ogden to persuade McGraw to field his weaker lineup for the lefty-righty platoon. Most of all, it convinced McGraw to slot his young first baseman, Bill Terry -- a future Hall of Famer who struggled mightily at the time against left-handed pitchers -- into the fifth spot in the Giants' order.

The ploy worked swimmingly. Ogden struck out Freddie Lindstrom and walked Frankie Frisch, and then left the game for Mogridge. Terry went hitless in his two at-bats before McGraw replaced him for a pinch-hitter, thereby removing New York's biggest power threat. Harris' switch didn't win the game by itself (Washington needed a heroic relief appearance by Johnson and a walk-off double in the 12th inning), but it likely limited the Giants' best hitter in Terry, who entered Game 7 with an outrageous 1.517 OPS in the Series.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Milwaukee Brewers, Wade Miley

Rich Hill provided some soothing commentary about the weather and #shadows during NLCS Game 5

Wednesday afternoon found Rich Hill in a very relaxed mood. The night before, he was at his snarliest -- his curveball dancing all over the strike zone, candy buckets being uprooted and kicked all over the Dodgers' dugout -- but that's because he was pitching, and was in his feelings.

During NLCS Game 5 on Wednesday, Hill wore a microphone and offered up some play-by-play in the third inning. Specifically, he commented on the crisp, non-October-ish weather and how #shadows had begun descending on the field, given the game's mid-afternoon start time. 

10 longest postseason games in MLB history

From the 1986 Mets to the 2004 Red Sox, these teams played the longest playoff games of all time
MLB.com @_dadler

Did you stay up all the way to the end of the Dodgers' walk-off win over the Brewers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series?

It took 13 innings and more than five hours to decide a winner -- that honor went to the home team, when Cody Bellinger drove in Manny Machado for the game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th at Chavez Ravine.

Did you stay up all the way to the end of the Dodgers' walk-off win over the Brewers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series?

It took 13 innings and more than five hours to decide a winner -- that honor went to the home team, when Cody Bellinger drove in Manny Machado for the game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th at Chavez Ravine.

But how does that marathon compare to the others in MLB's 115-year playoff history? As it turns out, the Dodgers and Brewers don't even rank among the top 10 longest playoff games by number of innings.

Here are those games: the 10 longest postseason games of all time.

1 (tie). Game 2, 2014 NLDS: Giants 2, Nationals 1 -- 18 innings
The Nationals have had more than their fair share of agonizing playoff losses in the last decade. This was one of them. The Nats held a 1-0 lead entering the ninth inning in Washington, and Jordan Zimmermann was dominating. The righty had thrown eight shutout innings, and he took the mound for the top of the ninth. He got two quick outs -- giving him 20 straight batters retired -- but then walked Joe Panik. Matt Williams replaced Zimmermann with Drew Storen, who allowed a single to Buster Posey and a game-tying double to Pablo Sandoval. The Giants almost took the lead there, but Posey was thrown out at the plate to keep the game tied.

Video: Must C Close: Sandoval ties it, Posey out by inches

From there, neither team scored for the next eight innings. Finally, in the top of the 18th, Brandon Belt homered off Tanner Roark to break the tie, and the Giants held on. The game took six hours, 23 minutes -- the longest postseason game on record by time as well as innings. The Giants would eliminate the Nationals in four games and go on to win the World Series.

Video: Must C Clutch: Belt cranks tiebreaking shot in 18th

1 (tie). Game 4, 2005 NLDS: Astros 7, Braves 6 -- 18 innings
Entering Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS, the Astros already held the record for longest postseason game -- their 16-inning Game 6 loss to the Mets in the 1986 NLCS. They topped that one here, with a win that sent them to the NLCS. Their record has since been equaled, but not broken. One crazy fact: Tim Hudson, who started the 18-inning playoff game for the Giants in 2014, also started this one for the Braves.

The Braves jumped out to a 5-0 lead, thanks to a grand slam by Adam LaRoche, and led 6-1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning. But the Astros got four back in the eighth when Lance Berkman crushed a grand slam of his own. Then, down to their last out in the ninth, they tied the game on Brad Ausmus' home run off Kyle Farnsworth. The score stayed 6-6 until the bottom of the 18th, when unlikely hero Chris Burke ended the game, and the series, with one big swing.

Video: 2005 NLDS Gm4: Chris Burke's series-ending home run

3. Game 6, 1986 NLCS: Mets 7, Astros 6 -- 16 innings
This game stood as the record for the longest in the postseason for close to two decades. Like the Astros-Braves contest that eclipsed it, this one was a series clincher. The Mets beat Houston at the Astrodome to move on to the World Series against the Red Sox, setting the stage for one of the most memorable Fall Classics of all time.

Video: 1986 NLCS Gm6: Mets advance to World Series

Looking for the clinch, the Mets were baffled for eight innings by Bob Knepper, who took a 3-0 lead into the ninth. But the Mets rallied for three runs off Knepper and reliever Dave Smith to equalize. The extra innings were thrilling. Wally Backman knocked a go-ahead single for the Mets in the top of the 14th, only for the Astros to tie the game in the bottom of the 14th on Billy Hatcher's homer off Jesse Orosco. The Mets scored three more times in the top of the 16th; the Astros rallied for two in the bottom of the 16th, and had the tying run in scoring position with two outs. But Orosco struck out Kevin Bass to end the game, and the Mets advanced.

Video: 1986 NLCS Gm6: Mets tie game in 9th with three runs

4 (tie). Game 5, 1999 NLCS: Mets 4, Braves 3 -- 15 innings
The Mets won another marathon in the 1999 playoffs, a 15-inning victory against the rival Braves in the NLCS that took five hours, 46 minutes. But there was no World Series trip awaiting them this time, as Atlanta would go on to win the series in Game 6 two days later.

The Mets won Game 5 on a play that is iconic for its oddity: Robin Ventura's grand slam single. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th, the game tied 3-3, Ventura crushed what should have been a walk-off grand slam over the right-center-field wall at Shea Stadium. And it was a walk-off… but it went into the scorebooks as a single when a celebrating Ventura abandoned his home run trot after only touching first base.

Video: 1999 NLCS, Gm 5: Robin Ventura's grand slam single

4 (tie). Game 2, 1995 ALDS: Yankees 7, Mariners 5 -- 15 innings
The late-1990s Yankees dynasty actually began the next year, when they won the first of four World Series in a five-year span. In 1995, Derek Jeter was a 21-year-old getting his first big league cup of coffee, and a rookie Mariano Rivera hadn't yet taken over the closer role from John Wetteland. But the Bronx Bombers were still a playoff team. But Game 2 of the ALDS actually set up a dramatic comeback in the series by the Mariners -- the Yankees' 15-inning win gave them a two-games-to-none lead, but the Mariners would rally to win the final three games in a row to advance to the ALCS.

Video: ALDS Gm2: Leyritz belts a walk-off homer in the 15th

Game 2 at Yankee Stadium was a back-and-forth slugfest, with six home runs between the two teams. Among the highlights: a sixth-inning shot by Don Mattingly (his only career postseason home run, after finally making the playoffs in his final season in pinstripes); a go-ahead homer by Ken Griffey Jr. for the Mariners in the top of the 12th (the Yankees would tie the game in the bottom half); and, of course, Jim Leyritz's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 15th.

Video: 1995 ALDS, Gm 2: Mattingly homers in the postseason

6 (tie). Game 1, 2015 World Series: Royals 5, Mets 4 -- 14 innings
The record for longest World Series game is a three-way tie at 14 innings, with the most recent being the Royals' 5-4 win over the Mets in the opening game of the 2015 Fall Classic. The win sent Kansas City on its way to the franchise's first championship since 1985.

Video: Must C Clutch: Hosmer ends marathon with sac fly

The Royals opened the World Series with a bang -- Alcides Escobar hit a first-pitch inside-the-park home run off Matt Harvey leading off the bottom of the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. But it was the Mets who led Game 1, 4-3, entering the ninth. That's when Alex Gordon crushed the game-tying home run to dead center field to send the game to extras. The Royals completed the rally in the bottom of the 14th, when Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly brought home Alcides Escobar with the game-winning run.

Video: Must C Clutch: Gordon belts game-tying homer in 9th

6 (tie). Game 2, 2015 ALDS: Rangers 6, Blue Jays 4 -- 14 innings
The most memorable game of this series was the deciding Game 5 -- the Jose Bautista bat flip game. But before Joey Bats won the Blue Jays the series, capping a comeback from down 2-0, the Rangers pulled out this 14-inning affair on the road in Game 2.

Video: Must C Crucial: Rangers rally with two outs in 14th

Most of the offense came early, although the Rangers did get a much-needed pinch-hit, game-tying single from Mike Napoli with two outs in the eighth, which helped push the game to extra innings. The Rangers held off Toronto until they broke through with a two-out rally in the 14th, stringing together four straight hits and scoring twice for the decisive runs.

Video: TEX@TOR Gm2: Napoli ties game with RBI single in 8th

6 (tie). Game 3, 2005 World Series: White Sox 7, Astros 5 -- 14 innings
The White Sox lost just one playoff game on their way to the 2005 World Series title, going 11-1 in a dominant postseason, including a sweep of the Astros in the Fall Classic. But those wins were hard-fought, especially Game 3 of the World Series, the only extra-inning game the White Sox played during their title run.

Chicago's only offense in the first nine innings came during a five-run fifth, capped by a go-ahead two-run double by A.J. Pierzynski off Roy Oswalt. But after the Astros tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, the White Sox needed extras to get the win. Geoff Blum hit the tiebreaking home run off Ezequiel Astacio in the 14th, and Mark Buehrle got the final out in relief -- just two days after he pitched seven innings in Chicago's Game 2 win.

Video: 2005 WS Gm3: Buehrle closes out Game 3

6 (tie). Game 5, 2004 ALCS: Red Sox 5, Yankees 4 -- 14 innings
This game was part of one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history -- the Red Sox's unprecedented rally to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS after being down three games to none. The night before, in Game 4 at Fenway Park, that comeback had begun with Dave Roberts' steal, Boston's ninth-inning rally against Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz's walk-off homer in the 12th inning. In Game 5, Big Papi did it again.

The Red Sox needed a late-inning rally just to force extra innings. Ortiz -- who else? -- got it started with a homer leading off the eighth to get the Sox within one. A few batters later, Jason Varitek hit the game-tying sacrifice fly off Rivera, and into extra innings it went. No one scored until the bottom of the 14th. With two on and two out, just over five hours after the game began, Big Papi was the hero again, lining the walk-off single to center field.

6 (tie). Game 2, 1916 World Series: Red Sox 2, Robins 1 -- 14 innings
The Red Sox and Brooklyn Robins -- now the Dodgers, of course -- established the World Series benchmark when they played this 14-inning World Series game all the way back in 1914. No postseason game would go longer for the next 60 years, until the Mets-Astros NLCS Game 6 in 1986. In the good old days of the dead ball era, this game lasted only two hours, 32 minutes.

The winning pitcher for the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 1916 Fall Classic? None other than Babe Ruth. The Babe, still in a Boston uniform and still a pitcher, lasted all 14 innings while allowing just a single run. He also plated a run himself with an RBI groundout in the third, which stood as the Red Sox's only offense until the bottom of the 14th, when Del Gainer knocked the walk-off single to give Boston the win. The Red Sox would go on to win one of their last World Series before Ruth was sold to the Yankees and the Curse of the Bambino began.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.