LOS ANGELES — The bullpen has been a difference-maker for the Brewers this season, but it is starting pitching that is guiding Milwaukee on the final push toward the club’s first World Series berth in 36 years.
Jhoulys Chacin delivered 5 1/3 strong innings, and Orlando Arcia hit a two-run home run Monday as the Milwaukee Brewers grabbed the lead in the National League Championship Series with a 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ryan Braun got the Brewers off to a fast start with an RBI double in the first inning as Milwaukee took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS, with Game 4 set for Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
Chacin (1-0) gave up just three hits and two walks while striking out six. Brewers starters have yielded just one run over 13 innings in the series as Chacin’s outing followed 5 2/3 scoreless innings from Wade Miley in Game 2.
“My slider was very important for me,” said Chacin, a 10-year veteran who is in the postseason for the first time. “I know my slider was good, but I think my fastball command was the thing that made my slider better.”
The Dodgers have scored eight runs in the NLCS against the Brewers’ acclaimed bullpen, although they failed to push a run home against the relievers Monday despite loading the bases with one out in the ninth inning.
“Our guys that we’re giving the ball to at the start of the game, they’re doing a heck of a job, man,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “And they’re setting the tone really for games. They’re putting us in a good position. They’re putting us in a very advantageous position to use our guys in the bullpen. And then that’s going to lead to wins.”
The Dodgers made things interesting in the ninth inning by loading the bases with one out, but Yasmani Grandal and Brian Dozier struck out against right-hander Jeremy Jeffress to end the game.
Relievers Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, Josh Hader and Jeffress completed Milwaukee’s five-hit shutout. Jeffress had given up five hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings through the first two games of the series, but came through with the game on the line Monday, although Counsell did consider letting Hader pitch the ninth instead.
“That’s the debate, you know. That’s the debate for sure,” Counsell said. “And we got Jeremy Jeffress who has been an All-Star this year and pitched huge, huge moments for us during the season. We got a four-run lead. I trust him to get those outs. The ninth inning was entertaining, but they didn’t score.”
Dodgers rookie starter Walker Buehler (0-1) had eight strikeouts over seven innings, matching his second-longest start from the regular season. He was charged with four runs on five hits and one walk.
The top three spots in the Dodgers’ order went a combined 1-for-12, with that hit coming in the ninth inning on a single from Justin Turner. Los Angeles went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, including 0-for-3 in the ninth.
Grandal hit a fifth-inning double, but his rough series continued.
In addition to striking out in the ninth, he struck out with a pair of runners in scoring position and one out in the second inning. He also had a passed ball in the eighth inning and could not corral a wild pitch in the sixth that allowed Travis Shaw to score with two outs.
Grandal has three passed balls and two errors in the series.
“I’ve been known for three things: Taking care of my pitchers, getting on base and slugging, so I need to get back to that,” Grandal said.
The Brewers struck with one out in the first inning when Braun’s RBI double down the line in left field scored Christian Yelich from first base. Yelich was on base after a walk. The NL MVP candidate went 1-for-3, making him 2-for-11 in the series.
Milwaukee boosted the lead to 2-0 in the sixth inning when Shaw tripled off the wall in center field with two outs and scored on Buehler’s wild pitch.
The Brewers put the game away in the seventh inning against Buehler when Erik Kratz’s double was followed by Arcia’s home run over the short wall in the right field corner.
“I thought (Buehler’s) fastball had really good life and command all night long,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “The (strikeouts) speak to that. And he did enough to a point to keep us in the ballgame. I thought it was a decent pitch to Arcia, it was a grounder off the bat of Kratz that got down the line. I still thought the stuff was coming out well. Arcia put a good swing on it, and I didn’t think he got enough to hit it out, but unfortunately for us he did.”
It was Arcia’s second home run in two games and third of the postseason. He had just three home runs in 119 games during the regular season.
Arcia was ready for Buehler’s fastball up in the strike zone. It also did not hurt that the wind was blowing from left to right most of the night.
“I mean, that was (my) third at-bat against him (Monday), and he’s pitched me the same sequence, he started with breaking balls early,” Arcia said. “I was looking for a fastball that I could put a good contact on it, and thankfully I was able to get it and put a good drive towards it.”
—Doug Padilla, Field Level Media