Two words: Game Seven.
Milwaukee had eleven hits and the Brewers defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-2, to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in the National League Championship Series on Friday night.
For the second straight game, Wade Miley started, but this time he stayed in the game and didn't depart after facing one batter, although maybe he should have.
David Freese greeted Miley with a leadoff homer to right-center and the Dodgers darted out to a 1-0 lead before Miley recorded an out.
Freese's homer had an identical trajectory as his first at-bat in Game 2, when Lorenzo Cain leaped over the wall to rob the St. Louis native of a home run. This time however, Cain was unable to get his glove on it.
"Especially after they jumped ahead on David Freese's homer, I thought it was incredibly important for us to answer back as quickly as possible," said Brewers outfielder Ryan Bruan. "Keep the crowd into it, keep the pressure off of us."
Miley settled in, but the same couldn't be said for his counterpart, as Dodgers' starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was roughed up in the first two innings surrendering four doubles, and five runs before the Boys in Blue knew what hit them.
"I was trying to get ahead in the counts by using my off-speed pitches, but I left them hanging and obviously I got punished for it," said Ryu after the game through a translator. "I couldn't do my job and maintain the lead and I feel terrible."
Ryu recorded the first two outs of the first, but then allowed four consecutive hits as the Brewers hung four on the Dodgers in the inning.
Jesus Aguilar and Mike Moustakas mashed back-to-back doubles, and Erik Kratz and Orlando Arcia followed with a pair of singles, as Milwaukee leapt out to a 4-1 lead.
"One [run] would have been great, two would have been awesome, but to put up four right there just gives us a lot of confidence," said Moustakas. "The ability to go throughout the rest of the game, just to keep adding runs on, and trying to build your lead and then turn it over to that bullpen."
Entering the game, Ryu had never surrendered more than three runs in an inning during the 2018 campaign, in fact, in his last five starts overall, Ryu had only allowed three runs total, but in the biggest start of his five-year big league career, the Korean left-hander allowed four runs in the first.
"Giving up four runs in the first inning definitely hurt, especially all with two outs," said Ryu. "My job as the starter is to make sure to keep the game close, but I couldn't do that today. I have to learn from this experience and move on."
The three-run deficit was the third consecutive deficit of three runs or more the Dodgers have faced at Miller Park in the series.
"The excitement, the electricity in that stadium once we had that big first inning, it carried us throughout the rest of the game," added Moustakas. "And you can feel that as a player. You feed off of it. And it was an electric atmosphere in there tonight, for sure."
Despite Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts calling Game 6 a "must-win" with the opportunity to close out the series, and advance to their second consecutive World Series in the process, the third year manager opted to leave Ryu in the game, rather than burn the bullpen early in case of a Game 7.
"There's the thought of trying to go to your pen in the first inning or the second inning, but there's a significant cost potentially for a potential Game 7," said Roberts of his decision to leave Ryu in. "So I just felt that we needed to get some more innings out of Hyun-Jin to keep our highest leverage guys available for a potential Game 7."
So Ryu returned to the mound for the second inning where the carnage instantly continued, as he allowed back-to-back doubles to Christian Yelich and Ryan Bruan and the Brewers built a bulky 5-1 lead.
There's no nice way to put it, Ryu got rocked, allowing five runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts in just three innings in the loss.
The Dodgers got one back when Freese knocked in a run with an RBI double in the top of the fifth inning. However, with runners at first and second, and representing the tying run at the plate, Milwaukee's favorite villain, Manny Machado, struck out to end the inning.
"You know what? I'm focused on the game," Machado said when asked if the vociferous boos from the 43,619 in attendance bothered him. "Try to go pitch by pitch, drive in runs. Do what we got to do on the field. We didn't execute today."
Despite knocking in the Dodgers first two runs of the game, Freese would leave after the inning as Milwaukee brought in right-handed reliever Corey Knebel, and Roberts opted to move left-handed hitting Max Muncy to first base.
Knebel would later find himself caught in the middle of a monumental chess match that's been played by both managers all series long.
With runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, and Knebel on-deck, Roberts opted to intentionally walk Arcia to force Counsell to either send Knebel to the plate, or replace him with his best pinch-hitter off the bench in Domingo Santana.
Santana initially stepped into the on-deck circle, seemingly insinuating Counsell would go for the knockout blow, but he quickly changed his mind, and sent Knebel to the plate for his first at-bat of the season.
"I had no intention of taking him out," admitted Counsell of Knebel batting after the game. "You're hoping something crazy happens, you're hoping he walks, really. I thought he took a decent swing. And then a not-so-decent swing."
The chess moves managed to work for both teams as Alex Wood easily struck out Knebel swinging, but the Brewers second best reliever threw a scoreless frame in the top of the sixth.
Down the stretch, it was a battle of bullpens, precisely the type of game Milwaukee wanted, and the second-best pen in the National League threw 4 and 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to ensure there would be another game played at Miller Park.
"That's our motto down ther: Anybody, anywhere, anytime, We're ready to go," said Knebel of the Milwaukee bullpen. "So starters get as much as they can done, but you go as long as you can for as long as you can, and come in and finish the rest. That's our job and we did it pretty well tonight."
It's been a while since the Brewers were last in a Game 7, when they found themselves in the American League, facing current division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1982 World Series. Milwaukee lost that game.
For the Dodgers, Game 7 is an all-to-familar feeling and a loss on Saturday could remind them of their reoccuring nightmare of dropping Game 7 of the World Series at home to the Houston Astros.
The do-or-die Game 7 will feature right-hander Jhoulys Chacin for the Brewers and rookie and Game 3 losing pitcher, Walker Buehler, for the Dodgers. First pitch is scheduled for 5:39PM PT.
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