The Los Angeles Dodgers, the No. 1 seed in the National League, started things off the right way in Game 1 of the wild card round against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night, winning 4-2 in a relatively quick. game. That's one down, 12 to go as far as the Dodgers are concerned, because anything less than a World Series title is not really acceptable at this point.
Here are some of the main takeaways from Game 1.
Mookie sets the tone (Seager, too!)
This is why the Dodgers went out and got former MVP Mookie Betts. He led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and ended up scoring. He then doubled home a run in the second inning. Later, he barely missed a home run with a flyout to the left-field wall. Betts got off to a poor start this season for three or four games before playing like an MVP the rest of the way. He carried it over into Game 1. Oh, and Corey Seager in the two-hole provided insurance with a solo homer in the seventh. Not too shabby for the top of the order, combining for three hits, three runs and two RBI.
Brewers felt pitching injuries
The Brewers' pitching staff is already a bit more thin than the 2018 bunch that came within a game of the NL pennant. It was always going to be a tall order to go into Dodger Stadium and take two of three from a team that played like a 116-win team in the regular season. Things compounded in recent days, however, when word came down that ace starter Corbin Burnes (4-1, 2.11 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 88 K, 24 BB, 59 2/3 IP) was injured and (more recently) stud reliever Devin Williams (0.33 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 53 K, 9 BB, 27 IP) was also hurt.
If the Brewers had both and scored the same two runs they did in Game 1, it's entirely possible they come away with a win. How?
- Starter Brent Suter allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings before the Brewers needed to go to the bullpen.
- After Eric Yardley and Justin Topa dealt for 4 1/3 innings relieving Suter, Freddy Peralta allowed the Seager homer.
Let's say Burnes throws as he has all season for about five or six innings and then Yardley/Topa get the Brewers through the seventh. Then it's Williams and Josh Hader to close things down.
Alas, the Brewers did suffer these injuries and that's simply the reality.
Yelich had two hard hits
Though the Brewers saw a good night from Avisail Garcia (three hits) and Orlando Arcia clubbed his fourth career playoff homer -- tying him with Prince Fielder for the franchise record -- the Brewers offense is all about Christian Yelich. The 2018 MVP who was the runner-up last season had a lackluster regular season (.205/.356/.430), but Wednesday he had a single and double. Both were scorched. That's a good sign moving to Game 2. The strikeouts against Walker Buehler in the first and Kenley Jansen in the ninth weren't really worrisome because, well, those guys are studs. It was a net-positive game for Yelich at the plate.
Dodgers bullpen dominated
At 2.74, the Dodgers had the second-best bullpen ERA in baseball this season, just 0.02 behind the Oakland A's. They trailed only the Twins and Rays in bullpen WAR. They had a big lead in WHIP (1.04; the A's were second at 1.13). Possibly because of their huge names elsewhere, the group might've been overshadowed in the regular season. They got a bit of the spotlight in Game 1.
After starter Walker Buehler gave up the two-run homer to Arcia, a game that seemed likely to be headed for a bloodbath was all of a sudden just a one-run Dodgers lead.
No worries. The Dodgers bullpen stepped up with dominant performances. Julio Urias threw three scoreless innings, striking out five without issuing a single walk. Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen each followed with a scoreless inning apiece.
They'll do it again Thursday evening with Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.16) getting the ball for the Dodgers, looking to close things down in a nice-and-tidy two games. The Brewers counter with Brandon Woodruff (3-5, 3.05), their best healthy starting pitcher.