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Counsell: Kershaw, LA staff will be 'big challenge'

Brewers manager opts to not name starting pitcher for series opener
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers weren't ready to name a starting pitcher for Friday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday, the first full day their matchup against the Dodgers was set. That should surprise no one, since Milwaukee opted not to say Jhoulys Chacin would start the NL Central tiebreaker game at Wrigley Field until three hours before the first pitch, and then they waited until the morning of Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Rockies to make the surprise announcement that Brandon Woodruff would be the "initial out-getter" on what amounted to a bullpen day.

But while the Brewers played coy -- Chacin is the most likely candidate, barring another Game 1 bullpen day -- they know who they are up against.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers weren't ready to name a starting pitcher for Friday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday, the first full day their matchup against the Dodgers was set. That should surprise no one, since Milwaukee opted not to say Jhoulys Chacin would start the NL Central tiebreaker game at Wrigley Field until three hours before the first pitch, and then they waited until the morning of Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Rockies to make the surprise announcement that Brandon Woodruff would be the "initial out-getter" on what amounted to a bullpen day.

But while the Brewers played coy -- Chacin is the most likely candidate, barring another Game 1 bullpen day -- they know who they are up against.

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

Clayton Kershaw, coming off a superlative performance in the NLDS against the Braves, will start Game 1 for the Dodgers on Friday at Miller Park.

• Kershaw to start Game 1 on extra rest

"Look, it's a big challenge," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "Their starting pitching is very good, so it's a challenge. Against good pitching, execution feels more valuable, because you don't feel like you're going to get as many opportunities. I think that's true any time you face good pitching. So I think that, of course, is going to be a key.

"At the same time, home runs do still win these games. Home runs are still a big part of these games. You don't have to put big rallies together if you can get a walk and a two-run homer. More than you think, there are playoff wins on home runs. It is the big blow. And really, the message is it's tough to put extended rallies together against good pitching. The one mistake, and popping one, is a lot more likely to happen in a lot of ways."

Kershaw has been as good as you'd expect in 14 career starts against the Brewers, registering a 2.86 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. Milwaukee has won six of those starts, including one of two this season. The Brewers came from behind to beat Kershaw and the Dodgers at Miller Park on July 21, when Christian Yelich homered and Milwaukee capitalized on errors to score three unearned runs in a 4-2 win. Yelich is 9-for-17 with a pair of home runs in his career against Kershaw and has a .409/.429/.636 slash line against the pitchers who were on the Dodgers' NLDS roster.

In the regular season, the Dodgers took the season series from the Brewers, 4-3.

• LA-MIL season series an NLCS preview?

Video: MIL@LAD: Yelich belts a solo homer off Kershaw in 5th

"It's different because it's a playoff series, as much as anything," Counsell said. "We rolled into both Dodgers series, and we had to protect some pitching. In two of the games, we used position players. It's just different. I mean, it's the playoffs, and things are going to be managed differently.

"It's a good team, and there were some good games in some of the seven we played. We know what to expect. We played them both in the second half, so it's not that long ago, and it's similar personnel."

Decisions, decisions
When the Brewers set an NLDS roster with 11 pitchers and 14 position players, general manager David Stearns conceded that it was specific to a best-of-five series in which teams don't play more than two consecutive days. Things could look different in the best-of-seven NLCS under a 2-3-2 format.

Left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno is a candidate to get back into action after being left off the NLDS roster. So is right-handed starter Zach Davies, who was one of three Brewers pitchers, with Junior Guerra and Freddy Peralta, who threw to hitters in a brief workout at Miller Park on Tuesday.

Guerra and Peralta were on the NLDS roster but, like Gio Gonzalez, didn't pitch. Davies and Gonzalez served as starting pitchers in September. Guerra and Peralta worked out of the bullpen down the stretch in the regular season.

Tweet from @AdamMcCalvy: Brewers are working out at Miller Park today, including a live BP for Junior Guerra. He was one of three pitchers on the NLDS roster who didn���t get in a game against the Rockies. pic.twitter.com/7by2jchqtP

The Brewers will have to submit a 25-man NLCS roster by 10 a.m. CT on Friday.

"We had one conversation today, and we'll have another one [Wednesday]," Counsell said. "Yeah, it's a different series. There's a potential for seven games in nine days instead of five in seven days, so that's a different equation."

Just like in the NLDS, the pitchers were forced to stay flexible.

"I don't know what the plan is right now," Guerra said, "but it was good to see hitters and get ready. We're waiting. We're excited, too."

Video: Adam McCalvy discusses Brewers postseason pitching

Last call
• The old "rest vs. rust" debate doesn't much apply to this series, since the Brewers finished a sweep of the Rockies on Sunday and the Dodgers closed out their 3-1 NLDS win over the Braves on Monday before traveling home to Los Angeles. If their postseason tradition holds, the Dodgers won't fly to Milwaukee until Thursday before taking part in a workout that evening.

"Look, both teams are going to go into this series very fresh," Counsell said. "We're in the series. However you get there, you're happy about getting there. The break allows you to consider more options."

• Director of grounds Michael Boettcher and his crew were working on their artistic skills Tuesday, turning an NLDS logo along the baselines into an NLCS logo. All they had to do was alter the letter C.

Tweet from @Brewers: A fresh coat of paint and one significant (C)hange. #OurCrewOurOctober pic.twitter.com/VIScRVew7G

The roof was open for most of an 80-degree day in Milwaukee on Tuesday, but it is likely to be closed the rest of the week, including for Games 1 and 2. A storm system is expected to bring temperatures in the 40s by Thursday and Friday.

• Major League Baseball set the first pitch times for the first two games of the series on Tuesday. Friday's Game 1 will begin at 7:09 p.m. CT, and Game 2 on Saturday will begin at 3:09 p.m. CT.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers