MILWAUKEE -- After watching Josh Hader carve through two clean innings against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday with a four-run lead, Brewers manager Craig Counsell faced a choice: make a pitching change to preserve the possibility of using Hader for a batter
MILWAUKEE -- After watching Josh Hader carve through two clean innings against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday with a four-run lead, Brewers manager Craig Counsell faced a choice: make a pitching change to preserve the possibility of using Hader for a batter or two in Game 2, or keep the pedal to the metal and send him back to the mound.
Counsell chose the latter, and the result was a 6-5 win -- but also:
"You won't see Josh tomorrow, for sure," Counsell said after the game.
Counsell faced similar choices all season with Hader, a uniquely dominant relief weapon who led Major League relievers and set a franchise relief record with 143 regular-season strikeouts, but perhaps more than any other arm in the Brewers' deep bullpen, requires rest to be effective.
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Over the course of the past season and a half since promoting Hader -- once Milwaukee's top pitching prospect and a presumed future starter -- and turning him into a reliever, Counsell and his coaches developed a formula for success. Often, that meant multi-inning stints followed by multiple days of rest.
"Any time you extend a pitcher, there's a cost the next day," Counsell said. "You guys have been trying to crack my usage of Josh Hader. I think I've been pretty consistent on how we've used Josh this year. Nothing is going to change about that."
Only five times during the regular season did Counsell pitch Hader on back-to-back days, including three times in August as the Brewers began their late surge, but none in September.
In the NL Division Series, Counsell made an exception. Hader threw 20 pitches in 1 1/3 innings of Game 1, then returned the next day to retire left-handed-hitting Charlie Blackmon on two pitches in Game 2. But after a season-high 46 pitches in NLCS Game 1 against the Dodgers, that wasn't an option in Game 2, according to Counsell, who said he still feels comfortable with his bullpen situation with rookie Corbin Burnes fully rested and available.
Hader has maintained a simple outlook. Regarding his third inning in Game 1, he summed it up like this: "Just get back out there and get outs. Gotta give it my all, give 100 percent to put the team in a good position to stay in the lead."
With two days of rest, Hader will be available again in Monday's Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, Counsell said.
Turning the page
For Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin, Game 3 of the NLCS will be an exercise in a player's uncanny ability to "flush it," baseball parlance for moving on. He'll be back on the mound at Dodger Stadium, the site of Chacin's worst day in an otherwise solid debut season in Milwaukee.
On Aug. 2, a disputed walk helped load the bases for Cody Bellinger's grand slam, part of a 4 1/3-inning outing in which Chacin was charged with nine runs (eight earned) on five hits and four walks.
"I know people might talk a lot about that," said Chacin.
But Chacin also remembers the good moments at Dodger Stadium. A former Rockie and Padre, he has pitched 61 2/3 career innings there, and before that tough night in August, his Dodger Stadium ERA was a respectable 4.08.
Chacin will also remember that he rebounded from that game to post a 2.67 ERA in his final 11 starts of the regular season before delivering five scoreless innings on short rest against the Rockies on Game 2 of the NLDS.
"Just go out and have fun," Chacin said. "That's what I've done my whole career -- go out and have fun and try to get people out. However many innings Counsell wants me to throw, that's what I'm going to do."
Corey Knebel's visit from Counsell and assistant athletic trainer Dave Yeager during the ninth inning of Game 1 was much ado about nothing, Counsell said Saturday. Someone in the dugout had noticed Knebel rubbing his left hamstring, the same muscle he injured in April during a game against the Cubs before a month-long absence.
Knebel was quick to assuage their fears, and he continued in the inning.
"It was nothing," Counsell said.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.