MILWAUKEE -- Coming into the National League Championship Series, the Brewers seemed to have a clear advantage over the Dodgers in the bullpen. So guess why manager Dave Roberts thinks the Dodgers are leading the series, 3-2.
"The bullpen," said Roberts, noting the added workload on the relievers because of short starts by Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in Games 1 and 2, respectively.
"For our 'pen to eat up innings and put up zeros, [it] allowed us to stay in the game and keep leads," Roberts said. "Clearly, the bullpen has been the key for us."
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Highlighted by eight scoreless innings of relief in the 13-inning Game 4 marathon, the Dodgers bullpen is 2-0 against the Brewers and has allowed three earned runs in 21 2/3 innings for a 1.25 ERA.
Closer Kenley Jansen has looked like himself again after a roller-coaster season.
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"There's more of a focus," Roberts said of Jansen. "When it matters most, he ramps it up the most."
Pedro Baez has continued his dominance with seven strikeouts in 4 1/3 scoreless innings, and Dylan Floro hasn't allowed a run in 3 2/3 innings. Baez, Floro and Ryan Madson have appeared in four of the five games.
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The Brewers have one reliever (Joakim Soria) who has allowed more runs (four) than the entire Dodgers bullpen. Milwaukee's bullpen (not counting Brandon Woodruff's 5 1/3 innings as a de facto starter in Game 5) has a 3.49 ERA (11 runs in 28 1/3 innings).
Barnes starts over Grandal in Game 6
Roberts said Austin Barnes will be behind the plate for Game 6 on Friday night, reclaiming the starting job he had last postseason but lost this Spring Training.
A season-long hitting slump anchored Barnes to the bench behind Yasmani Grandal, but the roles have reversed again after Grandal's repeated shaky play this month.
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"It says a lot about his makeup," Roberts said about Barnes' resurgence. "He's a very blue-collar player, he prepares very well, his teammates gravitate toward him. Understandably, the season didn't play the way he hoped, but his defense never wavered. It's just a credit to him that when he got the opportunity he was ready to perform and that's clearly what happened right now."
Ryu shapes up
Management often credits Ryu's successful comeback from shoulder surgery in part to improved conditioning, but the Dodgers' Game 6 starter isn't so sure about that.
"That's an interesting point," Ryu said. "To be honest, whenever I go into the season I try to make sure I'm in the right shape to perform. This year after dealing with injuries, the focus of the offseason was different, and that might be the reason they say that. But I prepare the same way in the offseason every year."