MILWAUKEE -- Whether or not the Brewers sprint from behind and into their first World Series in 36 years, they'll be remembered this October for proving one thing: Bullpening can work. At least with the right relievers. At least in a short series.But like any other run-prevention strategy, it can't
MILWAUKEE -- Whether or not the Brewers sprint from behind and into their first World Series in 36 years, they'll be remembered this October for proving one thing: Bullpening can work. At least with the right relievers. At least in a short series.
But like any other run-prevention strategy, it can't work without the bats. That's the conundrum the Brewers find themselves in, facing elimination with the National League Championship Series shifted back to Milwaukee. The pitching? That's been solid; Brewers hurlers have held Dodgers hitters to a .220 batting average, striking out 61 over 47 2/3 innings.
But their lineup has gone cold, held to three runs over its last 22 innings, while the Dodgers grabbed a 3-2 series advantage.
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"We have to find ways to score more runs," Ryan Braun said. "We picked a bad time to go through a rough stretch offensively."
How did the Brewers' offense get here, and how do they turn it around?
Christian Yelich has turned mortal
Yelich is far from the only culprit, with Braun, Jesus Aguilar and Mike Moustakas a combined 14-for-80 (.175 average) this series. But more than anyone else, it was Yelich who propelled the Brewers into the position they're in, posting a 1.534 OPS during the 12-game winning streak Milwaukee saw snapped in Game 2. The Brewers have scored just 10 runs in the four games since, with Yelich going 3-for-16. He does not have an extra-base hit in his past 36 plate appearances, including 24 against the Dodgers.
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"I'm getting opportunities, getting pitches to hit, just missing them," Yelich said. "Not executing. I gotta figure it out."
Yelich would likely benefit from Lorenzo Cain getting going as well. Cain notched three hits in Game 1 and two in Game 5, but he went 1-for-15 with one walk in between.
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It's worth noting that Yelich continues to draw walks, meaning he's still getting on base at a solid clip. But with a lineup-wide brownout, it becomes more essential to have Yelich getting more than one base at a time.
They're either not making hard contact, or not enough contact in general
After leading NL hitters in hard-hit rate during the regular season, Yelich has regressed to just under league-average during the postseason. Again, he's not alone. Aguilar has seen his hard-hit rate sliced by a third, while Moustakas' is cut nearly in half.
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But as a team, the Brewers are actually getting more hard-hit fly balls/line drives, percentage-wise, than they did during the regular season. What's different? Their strikeout rate, for one. The Brewers struck out at a 26.5 percent clip over the first five games, up from 23.5 percent during the regular season. For reference, the White Sox led MLB teams with a 26.3 percent strikeout rate.
They lack the big hit
Teams gladly sacrifice contact if it leads to extra-base hits, but those have been lacking. Slap-hitting Orlando Arcia hit the only Brewers homer over three games in Los Angeles, and Milwaukee is yet to get a round-tripper this October from either Moustakas or Braun, who combined for 48 during the regular season.
Still, Arcia's homer off Walker Buehler in Game 3 alone was more power than the Dodgers mustered over the three games at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles was able to find other ways to win. The Brewers largely weren't because they went 3-for-19 (.158) with runners in scoring position over the past three games.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.