MILWAUKEE -- Miller Park was rocking when Wade Miley breezed into the sixth inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday. Orlando Arcia had homered. Travis Shaw was about to go deep, too. The Brewers would have a three-run lead when the inning was over, and
MILWAUKEE -- Miller Park was rocking when Wade Miley breezed into the sixth inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday. Orlando Arcia had homered. Travis Shaw was about to go deep, too. The Brewers would have a three-run lead when the inning was over, and looked ready to cruise to a commanding 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
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But just like Game 1 the night before, the Dodgers didn't make it make it easy. And unlike the night before, the Brewers' hard-worked bullpen couldn't claw its way to a 27th out before yielding the lead.
In a 4-3 loss to Los Angeles that snapped Milwaukee's 12-game winning streak, Corbin Burnes and Jeremy Jeffress combined to surrender four runs between the seventh and eighth innings of a defeat that evened the series as it heads to Dodger Stadium for Games 3-5. Jeffress avoided a bases-loaded disaster in the seventh inning only to see Justin Turner send one into the left-field bleachers in the eighth, dealing the Brewers their first loss in three weeks.
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"Intense baseball games, man. They're going to be like this for the rest of the postseason," said Jeffress. "They're going to battle, we're going to battle. Just be ready."
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Milwaukee had not lost a baseball game in 21 days, since a shutout in Pittsburgh on Sept. 22 that preceded the second-longest winning streak in franchise history. The run spanned three champagne celebrations -- a postseason clinch in St. Louis on Sept. 26, an NL Central clinch in Chicago on Oct. 1 in the tiebreaker game and an NL Division Series sweep of the Rockies in Denver.
On Saturday, there was only silence in the Brewers' clubhouse.
"Nobody in here really ever talked about the win streak. It means nothing," said Christian Yelich, who fell to 1-for-8 in the NLCS when he grounded out to end the game with the potential tying run in scoring position. "It's all about today, the present, the game you have in front of you. It's cool we won all those games in the past, but they honestly mean nothing to us [now]. We need to regroup."
The Dodgers' late-inning comeback spoiled what had been a magical day for Miley, who looked every bit the postseason ace while breaking enough bats over 5 2/3 innings to start a campfire outside Miller Park. It was the veteran left-hander's second scoreless start of the postseason.
Miley chipped in as many hits -- two, including a single in the fifth inning that led to a run and a 2-0 lead -- as he allowed, and according to Baseball-Reference, he became the first pitcher to allow four baserunners or fewer in consecutive scoreless starts in the postseason since Roger Clemens for the Yankees in 2000.
Clemens delivered nine and eight innings in those outings, compared with Miley's 4 2/3 in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Rockies and 5 2/3 on Saturday. But that's no fault of Miley's, rather a reflection of a different team in a different time. Miley threw 64 pitches for his 14 outs at Coors Field and 74 pitches for 17 outs on Saturday before manager Craig Counsell opted to once again tap his bullpen to finish the game.
"You want to stay out there, but all year long, that's the route we've taken, and it's worked," said Miley. "If we [played that game] again, we would probably do it again. Those guys have been so good down there, and they're going to be fine the rest of the way. It's one of those things -- the Dodgers, they're a pretty good squad over there."
The key to the puzzle was the rookie Burnes, who delivered a pair of scoreless multi-inning outings in the NLDS and was going to be counted on for the same on Saturday. But after finishing the sixth inning and getting an extra run of support on Shaw's home run, Burnes couldn't get an out in the seventh, forcing Counsell to dig deeper into his bullpen earlier than he would have liked.
Cody Bellinger singled home a run off Burnes in the seventh and Jeffress walked in a run later in the inning before preserving the lead with a huge pitch to induce Yasmani Grandal's double play. That pushed a 3-2 Milwaukee lead to the eighth. Entering the game, the Brewers were 84-3 -- including 4-0 in the postseason -- when leading after seven innings.
"I still thought we were set up pretty good," Counsell said.
That didn't last. Chris Taylor legged out an infield hit to open the eighth inning, and Turner turned on a splitter that stayed up and in to give the Dodgers the lead.
Of the 11 runs Milwaukee's opponents have scored so far in the postseason, eight came with Jeffress on the mound, including six of L.A.'s nine runs in Games 1 and 2.
"I can't strike everybody out. I can't make everybody hit a ground ball. I am human," Jeffress said. "I feel great, but you have to make pitches. Better results will happen."
Did Counsell second-guess the timing of his move away from Miley?
"Look, you're either too early or too late," Counsell said. "At some point, you've got to make a decision, and I thought he was going through the heart of the lineup for the third time, and I thought we had a fresh Corbin Burnes, who's been wonderful for us this year. ... Wade pitched great, man. He did his job, certainly. He did more than we expected, for sure."
In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that split the first two games at home have gone on to take the series 44 of 80 times (55 percent).
"I think we're fine," Miley said. "I think we know we need to go into L.A. and play good baseball. We played good baseball today, we just got beat."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Takeaway: On July 31 at Dodger Stadium, Lorenzo Cain leaped to rob Bellinger of a home run in Miley's 1-0 win. In the first inning on Saturday, Cain leaped to rob David Freese of a home run in another low-scoring game started by Miley. It wasn't exactly redemption, but it felt good, Cain said, after he expressed frustration about his inability to catch a Taylor triple to a similar spot in the ninth inning of Game 1.
"That's what I pride myself on doing, making plays out there," Cain said. "As a team, that's what we have to do. We have to swing the bats, we have to play solid defense and we have to pitch. Especially against the Dodgers, they are a really good team." More >
On the board: Typically known for his glove, Arcia continues to make a name for himself this postseason in another way -- with his bat. Saturday provided the latest example, when Arcia clocked a home run off Hyun-Jin Ryu for a 1-0 lead in what became a two-run fifth. Arcia pounced on a first-pitch cutter from Ryu, sending it 407 feet and just over the wall in center field to break a scoreless tie.
A .236 hitter who was demoted this spring after struggling offensively, Arcia hit just three home runs across 119 regular-season games after hitting 15 in 2017. He now has two this October, having homered in the Brewers' NLDS-clinching Game 3 win over the Rockies. Saturday marked his first homer all year against a starting pitcher.
Ryan Braun's run-scoring groundout in the fifth inning gave him 14 career postseason RBI, passing Cecil Cooper for the Brewers' all-time lead.
SOUND REALLY SMART
These teams set a record for pitching changes for the first two games of an LCS. They combined for 27 pitching appearances in Games 1 and 2 -- 14 for the Dodgers and 13 for the Brewers -- to surpass the 24 appearances for the Indians and Red Sox in the first two games of the 2007 American League Championship Series.
HE SAID IT
"It feels weird. It's definitely something we don't like." -- Cain, on losing for the first time in three weeks
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.