MILWAUKEE -- Game 6 of the National League Championship Series brought a tangible result from the Brewers' Wade Miley gambit in Game 5. That's when manager Craig Counsell removed his left-handed starting pitcher, Miley, after one batter, and replaced him with right-hander Brandon Woodruff to work against a Dodgers lineup
MILWAUKEE -- Game 6 of the National League Championship Series brought a tangible result from the Brewers' Wade Miley gambit in Game 5. That's when manager Craig Counsell removed his left-handed starting pitcher, Miley, after one batter, and replaced him with right-hander Brandon Woodruff to work against a Dodgers lineup built to face a southpaw.
When Miley started again for the Brewers in Game 6, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts countered by putting David Freese, a right-handed hitter who mashes lefties, into the leadoff spot. Freese batted third in Game 5, so he never got to swing the bat against Miley.
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It was the right call. Freese, who'd also homered for the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2011 NLCS at Miller Park, hit Miley's fifth pitch into the Dodgers' bullpen for a 1-0 lead.
"It's more of still loving David's at-bat quality and liking him against Miley and just being able to see him a couple of times, depending on how the game goes," said Roberts. "And I think that we've got some balance in there. David's fine with hitting leadoff and understanding nothing with his approach changes.
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"And I think that, again, it's a game that you just don't know how it's going to unfold. And so with the way that we structured the lineup and the guys we have on the bench, just kind of gives us a little bit of flexibility on how we want to use the guys on the bench."
Counsell's Game 5 trickery bucked the old rules of baseball etiquette, but he said he had no regrets.
"I mean, when you're going to do something like that, I think the first place you have to be is you're not worried about the reaction," Counsell said. "The reaction is what it is. We're trying to do everything we can to win a game. I think most different decisions or unique decisions or things that haven't been seen before are going to be met with opinions on both sides of the ledger. So you're ready for that. You accept that. That's part of it. And you move on."
Shaw moves up to cleanup
Game 6 is not the time for wholesale changes to spark a quiet offense, but the Brewers made a small one on Friday by bumping left-handed-hitting second baseman Travis Shaw up to the cleanup spot with late-game matchups in mind.
In the Brewers' earlier look at Dodgers lefty starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, Counsell had Jesus Aguilar in the cleanup spot behind Ryan Braun, followed by Mike Moustakas and Shaw. That made it two righties followed by two lefties in a game the Crew led in the seventh inning, 3-0, but saw slip away.
"It's the same guys in there, and I do think the left-handers match up well against [Ryu]," Counsell said. "Really, I think we're just trying to split up the right- and left-handed hitters and making it as tough as we can on their bullpen. Their bullpen has done a really nice job, and we've had trouble putting rallies together against their bullpen. So we'll try to make it as tough as we can against them.
"Hopefully we score some runs early, but we're just trying to make it as hard on them as we can."
The teams posted nearly identical numbers in the first five games of the series -- 16 runs with a .219 average and a 3.02 ERA for the Brewers, 16 runs with a .220 average and a 2.81 ERA for the Dodgers. The ERAs were even closer before an official scoring change on Thursday's travel day charged an extra earned run to Woodruff in Game 5.
But a deeper look at those numbers revealed the difference: The Dodgers were coming through late in games against the Brewers' bullpen, while Los Angeles' bullpen held firm, with its relievers combining for a 1.25 ERA in Games 1-5, holding Milwaukee to a .588 OPS.
Overall, the Dodgers were 10-for-43 with runners in scoring position entering Game 6, and the Brewers were 5-for-35.
Counsell acknowledged how much he liked a question from a Los Angeles Times reporter who asked him how Counsell would greet Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado on Friday if Counsell were still just a kid from suburban Whitefish Bay High School and not the manager of the Brewers.
"I'd cheer for my own team," Counsell said.
Then Counsell paused and added, "I'm guessing some other people won't take that view."
Machado drew the Brewers' ire during the three games in Los Angeles with a pair of questionable slides into second base (he was called for interference on the second one) in Game 3 and for dragging his leg over the foot of Aguilar at first base in Game 4. The resulting discussion led the benches to clear.
"I think our crowd is a huge part of this game," Counsell said. "I thought what we had trouble doing at Dodger Stadium was putting a lot of pressure on their pitching. Hopefully that's something that the crowd [at Miller Park] can help with. As we get rallies going, that can add to the pressure.
"So if anything, the home crowd doesn't make you nervous, it helps you out."
Game 6 ceremonial first-pitch duties went to Brewers founder Bud Selig, who knows well the win-or-go-home situation the team found itself in on Friday.
The Brewers were in the same spot in the American League Championship Series after losing the first two games on the road to the California Angels in 1982, when the LCS round followed a 2-3 format.
"We played badly in California," Selig said. "And now we come home, and we had to win all three, as you remember."
The Brewers won the first two games to force a decisive Game 5. Selig, who is famously superstitious, had hosted soon-to-be Hall of Famer Don Drysdale in the owner's box in Game 3, and Selig convinced him to stay until the Brewers lost. That irritated White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Selig's friend who employed Drysdale at the time, but a concession was made.
So Drysdale and Earl Weaver's wife, Marianna, were at Selig's side when the Brewers took the lead on Cecil Cooper's two-run single in the seventh inning, and in the ninth when fill-in closer Pete Ladd pitched the Crew within one out of the World Series.
"There's so much I remember about that game. The place was rocking," Selig said. "Much I remember, but two out in the ninth inning, of course we don't have Rollie [Fingers], we have Peter Ladd -- he did a great job. But you look out, and who's hitting? Rod Carew. And I'm thinking to myself, smoking ... I had two cigars, I had one [in one hand] I forgot about, I had one over here, God knows what the hell I had. And I said to Drysdale, or no one in particular, 'Why the hell does it have to be the best hitter in baseball? Why can't it be some stiff who hits .230?'
"And the rest is history. He hit a shot, but right at [shortstop Robin Yount]. But it was just tremendous. It was a great game, right to the last pitch. It was the kind you never forget."
All hands on deck
Woodruff, who worked 5 1/3 innings of surprise relief after Counsell removed Miley one batter into Game 5, was the only Milwaukee pitcher unavailable for Game 6, Counsell said. Jhoulys Chacin, who is penciled in to start Game 7 if the Brewers can get that far, could be called upon for Game 6.
Counsell said. "There is a game tomorrow [if they can force it], and that matters. We do have some other guys who are rested. But if Jhoulys needs to factor in the game [today], then he'll factor in the game."
"I'll be ready for the first inning," Chacin said. "I don't know if Counsell will tell me that I'm going out to the bullpen in the first inning, but I'm going to be ready for today at any point of the game. We've got to win today."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.