Brewers hold off Dodgers 6-5 to win Game 1 of NLCS – and trigger free burger deal
MILWAUKEE – Bon appetit, Brewers fans.
The Milwaukee Brewers, who seemingly can do no wrong these days, not only jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the National League Championship Series with a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they triggered a burger bonanza for their fans by winning their 12th consecutive game.
Thanks to a prediction dating back to the 1940s when the Brewers were the city’s minor league team, the George Webb restaurant chain will provide free hamburgers at each of their 30 locations in Southeastern Wisconsin sometime next week.
Perhaps by then Brewers fans may be over a bit of indigestion caused by some late inning wobbles by a bullpen that had been dominant much of the game.
After roughing up Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and opening up a 6-1 lead after seven innings, the Brewers had to hang on at the end with the potential tying run on third base before Corey Knebel was able to strike out Justin Turner for the final out.
Closer Jeremy Jeffress entered with two out in the eighth after the Dodgers had loaded the bases off Xavier Cedeno and Joakim Soria. Manny Machado greeted Jeffress with a two-run double and Matt Kemp followed with a run-scoring single to make it 6-4 before pinch-hitter Yasiel Puig struck out to end the inning.
Knebel came on in the ninth and after retiring the first two batters, walked Joc Pederson and surrendered a triple to Chris Taylor to cut the lead to one before fanning Turner on a high fastball to preserve the victory and assure the first George Webb free burger run since 1987.
“We won the ballgame,” said left-hander Josh Hader, who contributed three shutout innings. “That’s the end accomplishment right there, getting that win in the first game of the championship series. So it’s huge, especially against this team.”
Machado staked the Dodgers to a 1-0 lead when he lined a 2-0 changeup from starter Gio Gonzalez over the left field fence to lead off the second inning.
But that advantage was short lived as Brandon Woodruff, who relieved starter Gonzalez after two innings, led off the third with one of the most improbable home runs in postseason history, blasting a 2-2 pitch from Kershaw over the center field fence. It was the first postseason homer by a Milwaukee pitcher since Lew Burdette hit one for the Braves in Game 2 of the 1958 World Series.
Manager Craig Counsell said Woodruff’s homer changed the whole tenor of the game, firing up the team and the crowd with his celebratory trip around the bases.
“It’s something, obviously, coming into the day you don’t know in your wildest dreams that’s going to happen, to be able to get in a battle off Kershaw and hit a home run,” said Woodruff. “I rounded first and once I knew it was going, it was just one of those moments when you’re not really thinking. I was just letting some emotion out. It was a cool moment.”
Counsell said he was hoping that Woodruff would get an at-bat as he was planned to be the first of what would be six relievers in the game.
“Woody is a good hitter,” Counsell said. “It definitely changed the vibe, for sure. I’ve never seen Brandon like that. To make it the first run your team scores in the NLCS and a homer off Clayton Kershaw, that’s how you should run around the bases. That’s exactly how you should run around the bases.
“The thing is it just fired everybody up. The crowd went crazy. It certainly changed the energy in our dugout from what you think is going to be kind of a grind-it-out game against Clayton.”
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said the scouting reports indicated that Woodruff had a good swing in his four at-bats.
“But to see the ball go out of the ballpark against Clayton was surprising to all of us,” Roberts said.
Following Woodruff’s homer, Lorenzo Cain singled to center and Christian Yelich walked, with both runners moving up on a passed ball by Yasmani Grandal, his second of the game.
After Ryan Braun fouled out, Jesus Aguilar hit a line drive that was snagged by first baseman David Freese with a diving catch. But Grandal was called for catcher’s interference, sending Aguilar to first to load the bases. Hernan Perez then brought Cain home with a sacrifice fly, with Grandal mishandling the throw home for his second error of the inning, allowing the runners to move up a base. But Kershaw escaped further damage by striking out Mike Moustakas.
That proved to be only a temporary reprieve, as Kershaw walked Manny Pina to lead off the fourth and then yielded a single to Orlando Arcia that was misplayed in left field by Taylor to put runners on second and third.
Domingo Santana, pinch hitting for Woodruff, followed with a sharp single to left to drive in both runners. Santana stole second base and scored on a two-out single by Braun to give the Brewers a 5-1 lead.
Kershaw, who appeared to have put his postseason woes behind him with eight shutout innings in beating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, was yanked after Santana’s single. He allowed five runs, four earned on six hits.
“I think it was just poor execution,” Roberts said. “I thought the stuff was good, but he just made mistakes in the strike zone and we didn’t do him any favors defensively.”
The Dodgers bullpen settled things down for a couple innings before Aguilar led off the seventh with an opposite field home run off rookie Julio Urias to make it 6-1.
Woodruff was as impactful on the mound as he was at the plate, pitching two perfect innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced as he was awarded the win.