MILWAUKEE -- The Dodgers might have the perfect counterbalance to the Brewers' highly effective, remarkably deep bullpen.
They have hitters. Lots of really good hitters. They platoon Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson in left field, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in right field and Player Page for Max Muncy and David Freese at first base. They have Enrique Hernandez and James Dozier at second base, too. Each of them could play every day on any number of teams, but the Dodgers' platoons mean they are not sending average bench players to the plate to face the Brewers' elite relievers in the National League Championship Series, which begins Friday night at Miller Park.
They will be sending former All-Stars and MVP candidates.
"There's going to be some kind of chess played this series, and that's part of the fun," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
The Brewers are starting left-handers Giovany Gonzalez in Game 1 and Wade Miley in Game 2. It is not a surprise. The Dodgers are less potent against lefties and the Brewers are looking to take an early lead in the best-of-seven series. Los Angeles had a .337 on-base percentage and a .458 slugging percentage against righties during the regular season. Those were the best splits in the NL. Conversely, the Dodgers had a .324 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage against lefties.
In theory, the Brewers would like Gonzalez and Miley to get through the lineup at least once (three-plus innings), then hand the ball to the bullpen. If the Brewers replace their starter with a righty, the Dodgers could counter by bringing in Pederson, Muncy and Puig to take advantage of the platoon splits.
The trio slashes .273/.365/.573 with a 153 wRC+ against righties. It slashes .218/.292/.408 with a 90 wRC+ against lefties.
But should the Dodgers immediately swap out their lineup? Or should they wait for a high-leverage situation later in the game? If the Dodgers commit too soon, they will not be able to counter when the Brewers deploy left-hander Josh Hader, for example.
"I'm not really sure who I'll be looking for," Hader said. "But we're out-getters. The ultimate goal is to get outs."
"We see who's coming up and have a feel for things," Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes said. "I imagine with the number of lefties they're going to have coming off the bench in Game 1, we could bring in a pitcher and they'll counter."
Roberts is anticipating this. He confirmed that Freese will start Game 1, but asked about running out the same lineup he used in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against Braves lefty Sean Newcomb, Roberts said he might "tweak a thing or two, just because you also have to combat and prepare against [Milwaukee] deploying their guys in the 'pen."
So maybe Roberts gets a little creative, giving himself a few more pinch-hitting options late in the game.
Chess match, indeed.
"The managers are trying to get matchups," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Now, both sides are not going to get matchups in every single case and not going to get every matchup they want. And ultimately this boils down to the players competing against each other, which is how it should be decided. So they've got left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters and we offer the same thing, I think. So it's challenging for both sides to navigate through that."