MILWAUKEE -- The September narrative as Milwaukee stormed to the National League Central crown and Christian Yelich made a strong closing argument for the NL MVP Award was something like, "As Yelich goes, so go the Brewers."
Is it fair to say the same is true in the opposite sense during the NL Championship Series?
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Baseball is rarely a story of one player, but Yelich's 3-for-20 start to the NLCS, including an 0-for-7 showing with five strikeouts with runners in scoring positon, is a significant storyline as Milwaukee tries to fend off elimination in Game 6 at Miller Park. If there was any doubt, manager Craig Counsell erased it on Thursday: Yelich is staying put in the two-hole against Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu on Friday night.
"It's just a case of a guy who's missing some pitches to hit," Counsell said. "I don't think that he's worried about where he's hitting in the lineup. He's worried about getting a pitch to hit and squaring it up. … I think he's been swinging at the right pitches, as his on-base percentage all postseason (.395) is showing. He just hasn't been putting his best swings on the ball, as he'd like to.
"It's a really small thing for Christian. He's right there. You just have to be patient. It sounds like a time that we don't have time for patience, but you have to trust that Christian is going to put good swings on the baseball, and I do."
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As for the notion that it was Yelich who carried the Brewers down the stretch with his 1.307 OPS in September, Counsell said, "That's certainly a narrative that was created, and for all of us watching, he was doing things that made that fair. It was probably overstated, because it's frankly impossible for one baseball player, the way the game is constructed, to do that.
"Look, he is a great player. And when you go through these things, you want your great players to be at the center of your success. The way baseball is constructed, he's getting four at-bats and Erik Kratz is getting four at-bats. Each guy gets equal opportunity to shine.
"The reason you build a deep team is so you can withstand things like that. Even your stars are not going to be 'on it' every single day."
Would Counsell consider any other lineup changes to spur the offense?
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"We need to score more runs, [and] there's only so much you can control," he said. "It boils down to our bats, and having better at-bats, and putting more pressure on the other team, as we talked about for most of the season. Our lineup is pretty determined and set. I don't think there are a lot of options to go with. I'm confident in our guys. I thought we did a nice job against Ryu the first game."
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The Brewers built a 3-0 lead against Ryu in Game 2 at Miller Park but it slipped away from Milwaukee's bullpen. That was the day Justin Turner hit a two-run home run off Jeremy Jeffress in the eighth inning for a 4-3 Dodgers win.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said Thursday that the difference for the Dodgers in taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS has been their bullpen, and the numbers bear that out.
Both teams have scored 16 runs in the series. The Dodgers have hit .220 as a team, and the Brewers have hit .219. But Milwaukee's damage has come early on in games and the Dodgers have scored late, pushing the Brewers' bullpen ERA in the first five games of the NLCS to 3.74 in 33 2/3 innings, compared to Los Angeles' 1.25 ERA in 21 2/3 innings of relief.
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Both relief corps came in hot: The Brewers and Dodgers ranked first and second in the Majors in relief ERA in September.
"We've had trouble scoring against their bullpen, there's no question about it," Counsell said. "I don't think we've put pressure on their bullpen. We haven't put rallies together. When you don't do that, it makes it easier for the other team to get matchups on your team. I think that's been a factor."
"For me," Roberts said, "if I had to pick one thing, I think clearly the bullpen has been the key for us."
World Series ticket sales set
They have to get there, of course. But teams also need to plan ahead for the next round, even when they are behind, so Milwaukee released information this week about tickets for potential World Series games at Miller Park.
Should they advance, the Brewers will host World Series Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary), played Oct. 26-28.
World Series tickets will be available for purchase online only, beginning with a series of exclusive presales that began Thursday morning for season seatholders. That sale goes through Sunday at midnight CT. If the Brewers win Games 6 and 7 and advance, the Brewers would hold a Wisconsin residents presale on Monday from 10 a.m.-midnight CT. After that, any single-game ticket inventory for the World Series will be made available to the general public on Thursday.
Fans will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to only one World Series game, with a limit of four tickets. In the event fans purchase tickets for any postseason game that does not occur, the full value of the purchase (including fees) will be refunded to their credit card within 10 days of the scheduled game.
Seating and pricing information is available at brewers.com/postseason.