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Brewers get ready to face slugger they coveted

October 11, 2018

MILWAUKEE — If you’re trying to take the crown, there’s no better way to do it than snatching it off the king’s head.

The Milwaukee Brewers have accomplished that once already this season, bringing the Chicago Cubs’ three-year reign atop the National League Central Division to an end with a Game 163 victory last week. And now, after making quick work of the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS, the Brewers have a chance to take the National League pennant from the current owner, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1982.

“We can taste it,” Brewers infielder Travis Shaw said. “We’re hungry, we want to get there, and we know we have some work ahead of us in the next series, but we’ll be ready.”

The Dodgers were heavy favorites to return to the World Series when the season began but got off to a slow start and were 10 games under .500 (16-26) on May 16. They won 37 of 54 to close the first half and went into the All-Star break with a half-game lead in the NL West.

When play resumed four days later, the Dodgers had upgraded an already-loaded roster with the biggest prize on the trade market: Orioles infielder Manny Machado. The deal couldn’t have worked out better for Los Angeles, as Machado hit .273 with a .825 OPS, 13 home runs and 42 RBIs in 66 games.

Machado got off to a rocky start in the playoffs. He went 1-for-12 with a home run in the first three games of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, but he came up big for the Dodgers on Monday, driving in four runs in a 6-2 victory that clinched the series for Los Angeles.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Monday. “Obviously with a player of his caliber, there are so many expectations put on him. And we said from the beginning that it’s going to take all of us to win a championship, and he understands that.”

The Brewers also coveted Machado. General manager David Stearns was believed to be a front-runner for his services but according to reports was unwilling to include rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes in the deal — a move that paid off for the Brewers as Burnes pitched four scoreless innings over two appearances during the three-game sweep of the Rockies in the NLDS.

“It’s going to be great,” Machado said of facing the Brewers. “Both ballclubs have worked hard to get to this situation. They’re both two good ball clubs facing off in the championship. And we’re just going to go out there and play baseball, be ourselves, keep doing what we’ve been doing all year, and hopefully, we come out on top.”

They did during the regular season, winning four of seven meetings with Milwaukee, including two of three at Miller Park in Machado’s first series with the Dodgers. The two teams split a four-game series in Los Angeles in late July/early August. Wade Miley threw seven shutout innings in the second game of that set but Matt Albers gave up two runs in the 10th inning the next night, and the Dodgers closed the series with a 21-5 rout.

Milwaukee has turned things around considerably since then and will carry an 11-game winning streak into Game 1 on Friday night at Miller Park. Still, the Dodgers are the team that was expected to be in this position, and they remain the NL champions until somebody else knocks them off their perch.

The Brewers believe they’re ready for the challenge.

“We’re not going to the NLCS to lose,” outfielder Ryan Braun said. “Nobody expected us to win the division, nobody expected us to get to the NLCS, and I’m sure when we get there, nobody will pick us to win. But we believe in each other. We really are playing our best baseball when it matters most, and we’re excited to have home-field advantage. It’s a really big deal.”

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