MILWAUKEE -- Whatever is different about Jeremy Jeffress this October, it's not the right-hander's confidence.:: NLCS schedule and results ::That much was clear by Saturday night, when Jeffress' struggles continued in the Brewers' 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. The curveball to Austin
MILWAUKEE -- Whatever is different about Jeremy Jeffress this October, it's not the right-hander's confidence.
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
That much was clear by Saturday night, when Jeffress' struggles continued in the Brewers' 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. The curveball to Austin Barnes in the seventh, Jeffress said, was what Barnes "needed to see." The splitter under Justin Turner's hands an inning later was "what we wanted to throw him."
And then there was that one other word Jeffress used, the one that got a lot of people talking.
Though the Dodgers used the three runs that resulted from those two at-bats to knot the series at a game apiece, Jeffress characterized the results as largely out of his hands.
"He just got lucky," Jeffress said of Barnes, who spit on a 3-2 curveball to draw a bases-loaded walk that pulled Los Angeles within a run of Milwaukee.
Of Turner, who pulled Jeffress' splitter 388 feet for a two-run homer down the left-field line that turned into the game-winner: "He just got lucky," the All-Star reliever said.
"It's a lucky hit, man," Jeffress said. "It just is. It is."
A day later, Jeffress clarified his comments, tweeting, "To set things straight. One lost doesn't define my ability. And a home run is never lucky. I was referring to the cheap hits before. Everyone are professionals here. Except the ones who criticize. Thanks have a blessed day."
The Brewers will certainly look to parts of Jeffress' performance this postseason and see his point. He had little control over the blooper Joc Pederson dunked into right field to load the bases for Barnes with Milwaukee clinging to a 3-1 lead at the time. The infield single Chris Taylor dribbled up the third-base line ahead of Turner's homer in the eighth was equally mishit. The string of soft contact that led to Jeffress' blown save in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Rockies only added to his frustration.
"Luck and pitchers, it's part of your life," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Sunday, in light of Jeffress' comments. "There's times when you have to realize it's working for you. You don't want to acknowledge it when the line drive gets hit at somebody. But there's times when the slow roller, as Chris Taylor's ball, it's frustrating, you make a good pitch, the guy hits it 40 feet, it's frustrating. And when the next guy hits a homer, it's really frustrating.
"He's frustrated by that, understandably so. Pederson hit a popup that falls between the fielders. So a couple of frustrating balls. The postseason is more emotional. There's no getting around that. And we're not always going to hide from that. And nobody is going to say it's not, because it is."
But in the aggregate, the results are concerning for a Brewers team whose all-in bullpen strategy is heavily dependent on Jeffress extinguishing rallies like in the regular season, when he did so more effectively than any reliever in baseball. He led all MLB relievers in ERA (1.29) and strand rate (92.9 percent). Jeffress entered the postseason rolling, unscored upon over his past 11 appearances dating back to late August.
Jeffress hadn't allowed multiple runs in a single outing since June 23, a span of 37 games. But he's now done so twice this postseason, a five-game span over which Milwaukee has allowed 11 runs. Eight have scored with Jeffress on the mound, including six of nine the Brewers have allowed over the first two games of the NLCS.
Jeffress was called on earlier than expected Saturday, with Josh Hader unavailable and Corbin Burnes ineffective in the seventh after replacing starter Wade Miley in the sixth. Miley dominated L.A. over 5 2/3 innings, scattering just two singles before Counsell called for Burnes, hoping for four outs. But the rookie only recorded one, then walked Player Page for Max Muncy and allowed a single to Manny Machado to open the seventh.
"That led to them having a pretty good rally," Counsell said. "We knew that was going to be a tough inning."
Jeffress surrendered Pederson's bloop before striking out Yasiel Puig with the bases loaded to bring up Barnes. After walking Barnes to bring in another run, he coaxed an inning-ending double play from Yasmani Grandal to end the threat. But the lead evaporated two batters into the eighth when, working a second inning for the second time this postseason, Jeffress surrendered Turner's go-ahead shot. He allowed just five home runs over 76 2/3 innings during the regular season.
"I feel good," Jeffress said. "It's the nature of the game. I can't strike everybody out. I can't make everybody hit a ground ball. I am human. I feel great, but you have to make pitches. Better results will happen.
"It's my game. When the ball is in my hand, it's my game. I can do some tweaks here and there, but if I start to try to change stuff, it'll snowball, keep going downhill. There is nothing I need to change, honestly."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.