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Dodgers grinding out Brewers' vaunted bullpen

October 14, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had a feeling. No, they knew.At least they sounded like they knew. The Dodgers felt they would beat the Brewers' bullpen in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park, if presented another opportunity. They fell short in Game 1, but they

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had a feeling. No, they knew.
At least they sounded like they knew. The Dodgers felt they would beat the Brewers' bullpen in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park, if presented another opportunity. They fell short in Game 1, but they took their hacks as Milwaukee's relievers showed fissures in the foundation. The Dodgers felt good about those Game 1 efforts. In fact, they sounded remarkably upbeat following the loss.
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
So imagine how they felt after the actual comeback victory in Game 2, with Justin Turner smashing a two-run homer against Brewers right-hander Jeremy Jeffress. The Dodgers sound like a team that had cracked the code. It gives them every reason to be confident entering Game 3 on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
"I like our approach," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I like the position players we run out there. You can't take anything away from that 'pen. They've done it over the course of the season, and they're a tough 'pen for anyone to match up against. But I do believe -- we talked about last night seeing these guys two nights in a row -- I think that that plays to our advantage."
Added shortstop Manny Machado: "We're trying to grind them out, grind them as much as we can."
The Brewers' bullpen posted a 1.61 ERA in 23 games before the NLCS, including three dominant performances against the Rockies in the NL Division Series. Batters hit just .182 with a .528 OPS against Brewers relievers in that span. They struck out an eye-popping 143 batters in 106 innings.
But the Brewers' bullpen has a 6.97 ERA in two games against the Dodgers, who have a deep bench and can counter Milwaukee's depth with strong platoon matchups. The Dodgers have hit .333 with an .844 OPS against the Brewers' bullpen. They have hit the ball hard, too. Batters had an average exit velocity of 87.5 mph against the Brewers' bullpen in the regular season. The Dodgers have an average exit velocity of 90.6 mph.
The trick is keeping it going, right?
Players like Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger can help. He ripped a first-pitch fastball from Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes into center field for a base hit in the seventh inning in Game 2. It scored a run to cut Milwaukee's lead to 3-1.
It also snapped Bellinger's 0-for-15 skid to open the postseason, and an 0-for-24 postseason slump dating back to his seventh-inning triple in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. Bellinger's single against Burnes tracked at 104.5 mph, according to Statcast™.

Bellinger hit the ball hard a couple times in Game 1, too.
"I'm a believer that one swing -- even if it's a hit or not -- can get it going," Bellinger said. "Yeah, man, it feels good. But I've been feeling good at the plate for most of the postseason. I just haven't had any results, but it was nice to break through there and hopefully we can go from there."
Brewers left-hander Josh Hader did not pitch in Game 2 after throwing three innings in Game 1. He'll very likely be available again in Game 3, which casts the Milwaukee relief corps in a very different light and will be a nice boost for the Brewers.

On the other hand, Jeffress' struggles are concerning. The Brewers have allowed 11 runs this postseason. He has been on the mound for eight of them. Jeffress said the Dodgers got lucky in Game 2, although he walked back his "lucky" comments in a tweet Sunday.
The lucky talk doesn't matter to the Dodgers. They have seen the Brewers' bullpen, and they like what they see.
"Everybody knows that they have a good bullpen, but yesterday [in Game 1] the bullpen threw too much," Yasiel Puig said Saturday. "We got to their bullpen two times. We finally got a win."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.