LOS ANGELES - Clayton Kershaw used an old-school approach Wednesday as the Los Angeles Dodgers dispatched the new-age Milwaukee Brewers to move one victory away from their second consecutive World Series appearance.
Leaning heavily on his breaking pitches, Kershaw struck out nine over seven innings as the Dodgers earned a 5-2 victory, with the National League Championship Series now shifting to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Friday.
The defending NL champion Dodgers took a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series as they aim to take part in consecutive World Series for the first time since 1977-78.
“To go back to Milwaukee up 3-2 as opposed to being down 3-2 is huge for us,” Kershaw said. “It’s a tough place to play. It’s a great team. And it’s been a battle every single game we’ve played them so far, and we don’t expect anything different when we go back. We’re in a much better spot now because of today, and I’m glad I was able to contribute today.”
Brewers left-hander Wade Miley will make his second consecutive start in Game 6. Miley started Game 5 but faced just one batter, walking Cody Bellinger on five pitches. He gave way to right-hander Brandon Woodruff as the Brewers aimed to skew the percentages ever so slightly in their favor.
The Dodgers appeared to sense a bit of deception was approaching as manager Dave Roberts started left-handed hitters Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy. Neither started in Game 2 against Miley. The tip-off likely came when the Brewers stayed away from Woodruff on Tuesday in a 13-inning game.
“Well, obviously our lineup today was different than the other lineup when we faced Miley, so you’ve got to prepare for the unexpected,” Roberts said. “So I liked where we were at. ... It was very unconventional, but we were prepared for anything.”
The one-batter-and-done plan was the Brewers’ strategy all along. Brewers manager Craig Counsell admitted that he was in search of the Dodgers’ righty lineup when he made the plan to flip Miley for Woodruff early in Game 5. Miley said he had no qualms with the move.
“It’s not my job to question it,” Miley said. “We’re trying to get to the World Series, and the strategic side of it can be a pretty good idea the way they use their bench over there. I was in. Everybody bought in.”
It took the Dodgers until the fourth inning to get a hit off Woodruff, when Joc Pederson singled, and until the fifth to score a run, on an Austin Barnes RBI single that tied the game 1-1.
The Brewers struck first in the third inning when Kershaw walked Woodruff to put runners on first and second. Lorenzo Cain followed with an RBI double off the wall in center field.
Following a Ryan Braun walk two batters after Cain’s RBI double, Kershaw (1-1) retired the final 13 batters he faced. The streak started with an eight-pitch strikeout of Jesus Aguilar, when the Brewers had two runners on base.
“Anytime you can work yourself out of situations like that, that’s going to make or break the game,” Kershaw said. “Minimizing damage as best you can as a starting pitcher is huge. In the playoffs, you probably don’t get many chances to work out of jams because you’re going to get taken out of the game because the magnitude of the game is so large.”
Kershaw gave up one run on three hits with two walks. He also worked two walks at the plate.
“When Kershaw is right, when he’s mixing all three pitches and attacking hitters, it doesn’t matter,” said Barnes, who wasn’t behind the plate when Kershaw allowed five runs (four earned) in three-plus innings in Game 1. “It was a rough start in Milwaukee, but we’re confident with him on the mound and he kept us in the game and gave us a shot to win.”
Muncy’s go-ahead RBI came after Justin Turner singled to lead off the sixth and Manny Machado was hit by a pitch. Yasiel Puig added a pinch-hit RBI single in the inning to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.
The Dodgers added two more runs in the seventh inning on an RBI single from Turner and a run-scoring groundout from pinch hitter Brian Dozier.
The Brewers’ Curtis Granderson had a pinch-hit RBI double in the ninth inning off Ryan Madson. Kenley Jansen then entered and struck out Mike Moustakas for the final out and his third save of the postseason, his second of the series.
Woodruff (1-1) gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. He issued one walk and struck out eight.
“I’ve done different roles this year, so when Craig came in and told me what the plan was, I was ready for anything,” Woodruff said. “I didn’t think much of it. All I knew that my job was to go in and get outs.”
—Field Level Media