“He’s delivered in this spot before, and we’re going to lean on him,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Woodruff. “I really think there’s a path for us to be strong in pitching for the next two games, but it’s obviously going to take a great start from Brandon. That’s what he’s capable of doing. If he does that, if he does his thing, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Even though the Dodgers’ bullpen had to eat up five innings in Game 1, it’s in better shape than Milwaukee’s, which was taxed for 7 1/3 innings after Brent Suter’s short and wild start on Wednesday.
Brewers: The Brewers are without Ryan Braun after he exited Game 1 with a recurrence of his bad back, and his replacement in the lineup is a stunner: Ryon Healy, who made two starts for the Brewers in 2020, the most recent of which was way back on Aug. 5. Now he’s Milwaukee’s cleanup man in a postseason elimination game. Jacob Nottingham will make his first postseason start at catcher with the lefty on the mound for L.A.
Dodgers: Austin Barnes is the regular catcher for Kershaw, but with the designated-hitter rule, the Dodgers won’t lose Will Smith’s bat. He takes over that spot from Edwin Ríos, who went 0-for-3 with a walk in Game 1.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Brewers: Woodruff delivered a 2.25 ERA in September after resolving to trust himself. He’d been running into roadblocks in the fifth or sixth inning, and the adjusted mindset worked, culminating in an eight-inning, two-hit, 10-strikeout beauty against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Saturday in which he and Josh Hader combined on a shutout.
“I know if I'm going out and executing pitches and I'm right, I can be one of the best in the game,” Woodruff said. “I'm not a cocky person. I don't like that to come off in that way. But I'm very confident in my abilities.”
Dodgers: Kershaw gets the chance to show that the improvements he made for the 2020 regular season carry over into the postseason. Against the Brewers in the 2018 NL Championship Series, Kershaw drew the loss in Game 1 in Milwaukee and the win in Game 5 in Los Angeles.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Brewers: The Brewers had hoped to get at least three, hopefully four, innings from Suter in Game 1. They got five outs instead. That forced an early appearance for Eric Yardley, who went seven up, seven down, and Justin Topa, who followed with two scoreless innings. Freddy Peralta and Drew Rasmussen also pitched an inning apiece, Peralta on two days’ rest after 50-plus pitches against the Cardinals on Sunday. That means while the Brewers have the innings to get through Game 2, some of their most trusted arms like Yardley and Peralta may have to take a back seat. The best-case scenario is that Woodruff and Hader cover all nine innings again and get the Brewers to a Game 3.
Dodgers: At the back end, Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen pitched one inning each in Game 1, although manager Dave Roberts had only lukewarm reviews for Jansen even though he was credited with the save.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Brewers: There won’t be a “tomorrow” for the Brewers if they don’t win Thursday, so it will be an all-hands-on-deck situation. Yardley’s efficiency (26 pitches) was big, given his importance with electric setup man Devin Williams out for the series with a shoulder injury.
Dodgers: The Dodgers essentially have an 11-man bullpen and the only ones unavailable for Game 2 are Julio Urías, who pitched three innings in Game 1, and Tony Gonsolin, who is likely to be held back for a potential Game 3.
Any injuries of note?
Brewers: Braun is a big question mark for the Brewers at the worst possible time, given how he hits left-handers -- even Kershaw a bit at 11-for-41. Counsell described Braun as day to day.
Who is hot and who is not?
Brewers: The Brewers’ postseason history isn’t remotely as rich as the Dodgers’, so Prince Fielder entered this week as the franchise’s all-time leader with four playoff home runs. Arcia tied him on Wednesday night, and three of the shortstop’s postseason home runs have come at the expense of Dodgers pitching. Game-ending strikeout aside, Yelich’s two hits also were encouraging, as they continued his run of hard contact.
Dodgers: Since the Dodgers settled on Betts and Seager in the top two spots of the batting order, they’ve ignited the offense, as they did in Game 1, when Betts had a pair of doubles and Seager added a 447-foot insurance blast. Pollock and Taylor also doubled in Game 1, and they’ve been solid all season as well.
Anything else fans want to know?
Brewers: The Brewers will be aiming to snap a three-game postseason losing streak that covers Game 7 of the 2018 NLCS against the Dodgers, the 2019 NL Wild Card Game against the Nationals, and Game 1 of this NL Wild Card Series. The Brewers have lost four straight postseason road games.
Dodgers: With Bellinger, Betts and Kershaw starting for the Dodgers and Yelich for the Brewers, if Braun is able to play in Game 2, it figures to mark the first time five previous MVP winners play in a postseason game, according to STATS, LLC.