The Milwaukee Brewers will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in game one of the NLCS this Friday at Miller Park. In order for the Brewers to win the crucial game one of the series, there are three keys to this game that need to take place.
On the mound for the Dodgers in game one will be Clayton Kershaw who has been a dominant force in the National League for a number of years. The Milwaukee Brewers squared off against Kershaw twice this season and posted a record of 1-1 against him.
In order for the Milwaukee Brewers to come away with a victory in this difficult match up, there will be three keys to this game that will determine their success. Let’s take a look!
Slowing down the LA offense
Regardless of who is pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, slowing down their explosive offense will always be critical, but this is even more true when Kershaw is on the mound.
Limiting this Dodgers offense will be a tall task but with Kershaw on the mound it will be a necessity. The Dodger bats ran hot and cold throughout the season but with their personnel, they have the ability to put up runs very quickly. The Brewers witnessed this first hand twice this season, allowing 12 runs and 21 runs in two separate games against L.A.
This Dodgers offense scored 804 runs on the season and averaged nearly five runs per game, which was first overall in the NL. They also led the NL in home runs, walks and total base hits. They are terrific at getting men on base and bringing them around to score.
A weak spot for L.A. is that they are very aggressive at the plate and will often swing at the first pitch. They have the most strikeouts by any team in the NL as well.
If the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff is able to limit the Dodgers to two runs or less, they will be in great shape even with Kershaw pitching. In games where L.A. has scored two runs or fewer, the Dodgers are 0-4 on the year when Kershaw is the starting pitcher. However, if they score three runs or more, Kershaw is 9-1.
Playing small ball on offense
Producing runs against Kershaw is going to be difficult for the Milwaukee Brewers. Relying on a big inning or some home run balls isn’t a likely source for run production. So instead, they will have to rely on manufacturing in order to score.
Although he started the season slow compared to his normal standards, Kershaw had another great year for L.A. On the season he recorded an ERA of 2.73, with a WHIP of 1.041 and held his opponents to a batting average of just .227. Kershaw closed out the second half with a 6-1 record.
Kershaw does a great job of limiting base runners. On the season he’s given up just 29 walks and only 139 hits. For context out of eligible NL pitchers he ranked 30th, meaning 29 other starting pitchers had more walks than him. And for hits he ranked 28th in the NL.
What this means for the Brewers is that when they get a base runner, they will need to move him around the bases any way possible.
A few ways that Milwaukee could do this is by being aggressive on the base paths. On the season, the Brewers led the NL in stolen bases with 124 and had a stolen base percentage of almost 80%, which was also an NL best.
Another possibility will be flyball outs. In the instances where Milwaukee does have a base runner, making flyball outs will give the runner the potential to tag up and move into scoring position. Unfortunately, this may be difficult for the Brewers. Out of the 15 NL teams, Milwaukee ranked 13th in flyball outs this season. Many of their outs come via a strikeout or a ground ball out. These types of outs will be rally killers
Unless Kershaw has an uncharacteristically off night, drawing walks and getting base hits for the Milwaukee Brewers will be limited. So taking advantage of the ones that they do get will be pertinent.
Production from the bottom of the batting order
When the Milwaukee Brewers have struggled offensively this season, many times it has been due to a majority of the production coming from just a few batters in the lineup. But when the bottom of the batting order can get on base, this Brewers offense is tough to stop.
There are others but often times Erik Kratz and Orlando Arcia will be the seventh and eighth batters in the brewers lineup. Below are their slash lines in games the Brewers have won and games that they have lost.
When players like Kratz and Arcia are able to get on base, it gives the Brewers best players the opportunity to drive them home.
When Lorenzo Cain comes to the plate with RISP he is batting .313 with an OBP of .452 and as slugging percentage of .354. He’s also recorded 23 of his 38 RBIs when the bottom of the batting order is able to get on base and advance.
Typically following Cain in the batting order is Christian Yelich, who has put together a fantastic stat line with RISP as well. On the season Yelich has a slash line of .325/.400/.619, with seven home runs and 70 RBIs.
If the Brewers bottom of the order can set the table for our stars Cain and Yelich, there is a good chance that they will clean it up.
Securing game one of any series is highly important, especially when you’re the home team. If the Milwaukee Brewers can take advantage of the Dodgers in these key areas, they will head into Saturday with a 1-0 series lead.