MILWAUKEE -- After winning two of three against the Brewers at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles returns to Miller Park with a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series and needs one win for back-to-back World Series appearances.The Dodgers have a 5-1 record when taking a 3-2 lead in best-of-seven
MILWAUKEE -- After winning two of three against the Brewers at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles returns to Miller Park with a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series and needs one win for back-to-back World Series appearances.
The Dodgers have a 5-1 record when taking a 3-2 lead in best-of-seven series, the only loss coming in the 1952 World Series. Teams with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS are 15-6.
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Here are three keys that the Dodgers will need to win:
1. Keep having the better bullpen
Let's start with the one that got them this far, according to manager Dave Roberts, who said his bullpen's 1.25 NLCS ERA not only isn't a fluke, it's the main reason Los Angeles needs just one more win for a second consecutive pennant. The biggest achievement was eight scoreless innings of relief in the Game 4 marathon win. What Roberts doesn't mention, but what can't be disputed, is that the Dodgers' bullpen has outperformed the bullpen of the Brewers, which was supposed to be their greatest strength.
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Of course, all things Dodgers bullpen go through closer Kenley Jansen, who looks to be back to his old, dominating self, right down to the two-inning Game 4 workload after an uneven -- and unhealthy, at times -- season.
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"I think there's more of a focus," Roberts said of Jansen. "If you look at every part of the season there were things that he's been dealing with physically, mentally, mechanically. But Kenley will be the first to say that when it matters most, the postseason, the big stage, that's when he kind of ramps it up, and that's not necessarily ideal as you hope everyone can kind of approach every outing the same.
"But for a guy that is a multi-year All Star, he's the best closer in the game. That extra adrenaline makes him that much better. And you see the pitch quality and execution going to a couple of different levels this postseason."
2. Get it started
A close second to the bullpen in importance, but don't overlook it -- especially with Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin lined up to open games against the Dodgers, neither of whom has allowed a run this postseason. Meanwhile, although Game 6 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler were the Dodgers' two best starters through September, Ryu allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings of Game 2 and Buehler allowed four runs in seven innings of Game 3. Both, however, pitched better than their lines.
Clayton Kershaw threw 98 pitches over seven innings in Game 5, but for the most part Roberts can afford to hook starters early because of bullpen depth and scheduled off-days to rest the relievers. This team is built around its rotation, though, and its best chance to win is if the starters pitch well and pitch long.
Ryu appeared to be cruising until he allowed three consecutive hits in the fifth inning of his start and Roberts yanked him, a winning move thanks to the bullpen and Justin Turner's home run.
3. Singles count
Dodgers hitters can make contact, can work counts, can use the big part of the field and can manufacture runs. They just prefer to slug, and they're really good at it. But in Game 5, their third consecutive contest without a home run, they shortened the swings (a little) and showed that other dimension. Small ball isn't sexy, but against tougher postseason pitching it's often the best path to the Fall Classic and the Dodgers can't forget that.
In Game 5, five of the last six Dodgers hits went to center field and the other was Player Page for Max Muncy punching one the other way, which was quite out of character for the lefty.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.