LOS ANGELES -- Zach Davies, welcome to the postseason.
Major League Baseball approved the Brewers' request to replace injured left-hander Giovany Gonzalez with Davies prior to Wednesday's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series after Gonzalez suffered a left high ankle sprain in Game 4 on Tuesday night. By rule, Gonzalez is ineligible for the World Series should Milwaukee advance.
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Gonzalez's departure with no outs in the second inning forced the Brewers to cover the final 11-plus frames of a 13-inning, 2-1 loss to the Dodgers with the bullpen, putting Milwaukee in a somewhat perilous position entering Game 5 after a short turnaround, and with starter Wade Miley on short rest. It helps that one of the Brewers' multi-inning "out-getters," Brandon Woodruff, is fresh, but Davies could help provide additional length as Milwaukee attempts to take a 3-2 series lead before heading back to Miller Park for the conclusion.
"Today, and for the rest of the series, he's a length option," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Having been a starting pitcher, having started on the last week of the season, he's capable of throwing a lot of pitches. There's certainly a chance he's in the game today."
Davies, 25, entered the season as arguably the Brewers' No. 2 starter, held back to start the home opener against the Cardinals. But his year was ruined by injuries, first a right rotator cuff strain and then a back issue, which combined to limit him to a 4.77 ERA in 13 starts, including five in September.
The Brewers left both Davies and Opening Day starter Chase Anderson off the roster for the NL Division Series and the NLCS, though Davies vowed to stay sharp in the event of an injury. He was one of the Crew's pitchers who threw to hitters in one of the team's workouts between rounds. Milwaukee ultimately tabbed Davies to replace Gonzalez over Anderson, who hasn't appeared in a game since Sept. 18. Left-handed reliever Dan Jennings was another option, though the club is already carrying a situational lefty in Xavier Cedeno.
"Zach was under consideration kind of at the beginning of the series. We've kept him, we feel like, prepared and going pretty good here," Counsell said. "We talked about Chase. He was definitely an option. In the end, I think it's been 30 days since he's been in a game, and that was part of the factor."
Dr. Gary Green, MLB's medical director, confirmed Gonzalez's injury after communicating with the evaluating physician. MLB postseason rules provide that a club may request permission from the Commissioner's Office to replace a player who is unable to play because of an injury, and the league may approve or disapprove the request based on the specific facts and circumstances.
"The first thought, I hope he's all right," Davies said. "Everybody in the clubhouse has that feel, at any moment, their name can be called upon. Everybody has done their work, stayed sharp, stayed ready, in case something like this does happen. It's unfortunate that the reason you replace someone on the roster is because of an injury, but at the same time, everybody wants to be ready."
The day after Cody Bellinger sent the Brewers to a walk-off loss in Game 4, Counsell was asked if he regretted the decision to pitch to Bellinger in that spot with first base open. Counsell could have instead opted to walk Bellinger and the next batter, Yasmani Grandal, to set up a bases-loaded situation for the Dodgers pitcher's spot. Since the Dodgers were out of bench players, they would have had to send Julio Urias or another pitcher to the plate in that situation. Urias is a career .138 hitter in 34 plate appearances, and he only took one at-bat at the big league level in 2018.
Counsell instead decided to pitch to Bellinger, hoping Junior Guerra could get Bellinger to expand the zone. Guerra got ahead 1-2 to Bellinger, who worked the count even before laying off a back-foot slider. On a 3-2 count, Bellinger tagged another slider -- this one in the zone -- for the game-winning hit.
"Well, it was a 13-inning baseball game. You're talking about hundreds of decisions. So yeah, there's always stuff -- I think there was some stuff I thought maybe earlier to kind of force their hand with more pitching changes that I thought maybe could have given us more advantageous stuff later," Counsell said. "Look, I debated how we chose to go after Bellinger instead of walking two guys and the bases loaded. I still would do the same thing, but it's certainly something you debate in your head."
"Craig has his reasons," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "And he's done a great job with their ballclub. So I just really don't know what his thought process was."