LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers were six outs away from riding their bullpen to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, only to see Justin Turner hammer a Jeremy Jeffress splitter into the seats to even the series at a game apiece.Now comes the hard part for
LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers were six outs away from riding their bullpen to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, only to see Justin Turner hammer a Jeremy Jeffress splitter into the seats to even the series at a game apiece.
Now comes the hard part for a Brewers team built on relief pitching: Three games in as many days at Dodger Stadium, which could require a different strategy than the one manager Craig Counsell has employed to this point.
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"I wouldn't say we gave it away. They earned it," Christian Yelich said. "We'll regroup when we head to L.A. It's going to be a challenge, but we'll look forward to it. …
"We'll be alright. L.A. is a tough place to play. They're a great team. But like I've said many times, we were expecting a fight."
How do the Brewers bounce back? Here are three things that would help:
1. A return to form for Jeffress and the bullpen
Josh Hader will be available again for Game 3, but how he's pushed will go a long way toward determining how much he's used in Games 4 and 5. The Brewers' preference not to use Hader on back-to-back days could change, given the circumstances. But even if it does, they'll still rely heavily on the rest of their group of "A" relievers to get them through three games in three days in Los Angeles.
That'll be a challenge regardless, especially if Jeffress continues to struggle on the tail end of a career-high workload. Eight of the 11 runs the Brewers have allowed this postseason have come with Jeffress on the mound.
"He hasn't had the results so far, but he's going to get the ball again," Counsell said. "We're going to need him to get outs. I'll tell you that for this to work, we need to count on our guys. And we're going to continue to."
Counsell hinted at the possibility of another bullpen game for Game 4, with some combination of Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Giovany Gonzalez and/or Junior Guerra likely bridging the gap to Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria and Jeffress in the later innings. It's those late innings where the Brewers' bullpen has uncharacteristically struggled thus far. Outside of Hader and Woodruff, Milwaukee relievers have allowed eight runs over 5 1/3 innings (13.50 ERA) across the first two games of the NLCS. The Dodgers have hit .464 from the seventh inning on, compared to .100 over the first six innings of the two games.
2. Get Yelich going again
The Brewers had four days off between clinching the NL Division Series in Denver and Game 1 of the NLCS at Miller Park, which was great news for those hard-worked relievers but perhaps not so much for a red-hot hitter like Yelich. After posting an OPS north of 1.000 in each of the final three months of the regular season and hitting 11 home runs in August followed by 10 in September, he was content to take his walks when the Rockies pitched him carefully in the NLDS. Yelich went 2-for-8, including a two-run homer in Game 1, and finished with a 1.196 OPS in the series by virtue of six walks in 14 plate appearances.
With lefties on the mound for the Dodgers to start Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS, however, Yelich was not a factor. He went 1-for-8 with a single and two walks, capped by a game-ending groundout on Saturday with the tying runner in scoring position.
"I've had chances, I just haven't been able to come through," Yelich said. "That's baseball. We had a chance there in the ninth inning [of Game 2] and we came close in the eighth as well. That's all you can do -- give yourself an opportunity. They made the pitches when they had to."
Counsell predicted a big hit in the coming games. He has proven prescient before; when Jesus Aguilar similarly struggled in Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS, Counsell predicted a big homer with men on base. Aguilar hit one with the bases empty in Game 3. Close enough.
"I think they've pitched [Yelich] well. I'm not seeing anything different," Counsell said. "If anything, I've seen just more foul balls. So I think the couple of pitches he may have got to hit he's fouled them off.
"Look, in games like this against pitchers like this, you don't expect to get a ton of pitches to hit. So sometimes the foul ball is the pitch you had to hit, and then you get into battle mode a little bit."
3. Forget recent history at Dodger Stadium
When the Brewers last visited Chavez Ravine, they won the first two games of a four-game series only to lose the final two in excruciating fashion. On Aug. 1, Yasmani Grandal hit a pair of homers, including a walk-off, two-run shot in the 10th inning. The next night, the Dodgers bashed seven home runs against Jhoulys Chacin and a Brewers relief corps that included utility man Hernan Perez and catcher Erik Kratz on the way to a 21-5 thumping that set a Brewers record for runs allowed in a game.
Afterward, Counsell said the plan was simple: "We lost, and we move on to tomorrow."
It's that simple?
"Yeah, it is. It is that simple," Counsell said.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook. Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.