MLB playoffs: A look at how the Brewers pitching sets up for Game 4 against the Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- In their third consecutive NLCS, we pretty much know how the Dodgers are going to go about things when it comes to the pitching. With Rich Hill on the docket for Game 4 and with Walker Buehler having gone deep into the game -- and being down in the NLCS two games to one -- expect Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to only try and get Rich Hill through the Brewers lineup twice. He might even hook him earlier. 

On the Brewers' end, though, it's so much more fascinating with how many more outs Craig Counsell is going to try and get when Jhoulys Chacin and/or Wade Miley aren't pitching so well. In Game 1, Gio Gonzalez only went two innings before Brandon Woodruff went two and Josh Hader went three. 

The Brewers had at the time been off for several days, so the entire pitching staff was rested. Still, I expect something similar in Game 4. 

Gonzalez hasn't pitched since Game 1 and I expect him to get his two innings in Game 4 as well. Maybe he's on point enough to get through three, but I don't expect Counsell to try and get him through the Dodgers' order a second time. After Game 1, he said the plan was just the one time through. 

"That was the plan we had talked about, and Gio knew what was going to happen," he said of taking Gonzalez out after one time through.

Again, I expect the game plan in Game 4 to remain intact. As such, if Dave Roberts starts his righties against the southpaw Gonzalez, that means David Freese in the three-hole instead of Max Muncy. Next up, Woodruff is right handed and that generally means Roberts going right to Muncy and then Freese is burnt after one plate appearance. Maybe he'll even feel compelled to go with Joc Pederson pinch hitting for Chris Taylor and the bench would already be thinned out before the lefty Hader comes back. 

Next up after Woodruff in Game 1 was Hader and he went three innings. Hader only threw eight pitches in Game 3, but I can't imagine he can go three full innings. Counsell does think he can get "length" out of Hader, though. 

It all depends on how the game is going, of course, but if the Brewers have a lead, my hunch is Counsell tries to get three from Woodruff (again, the game situations all matter) and two out of Hader, reversing Game 1. 

That likely gets the game to the eighth inning. 

The next two big guns would be Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress. I know Jeffress didn't give up a run in Game 3, but he's overall looked terrible in the postseason and he could sure use a game off. Knebel was stellar in his 19 pitches (15 strikes!) in Game 3. He can go again in Game 4, but probably only for an inning and I'd bet he gets the ninth. 

That leaves the eighth inning. Corbin Burnes has been outstanding all season except for a few batters in Game 2. Surely, Counsell can count on him here. Also, Joakim Soria got his one out in Game 3 on four pitches. He's an option as well. 

Basically, looking through the lens of either a tied game or the Brewers leading, with no pitchers showing up at the park unexpectedly hurting, my expectation is the following: 

  • Counsell will try to get six, maybe even seven innings, with Gio Gonzalez, Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader, in that order, with each going more than one inning. 
  • The eighth inning is either Burnes, Soria or both if Counsell gets seven from the above group. If he gets six from the above trio, maybe Burnes and Soria go one each. 
  • The ninth inning is Corey Knebel

Then the Brewers have Wade Miley in Game 5 and he's been unreal this postseason and, really, all season. I know he's said to be on "short rest" but he only threw 74 pitches last time out. They would then have Knebel, Burnes, Soria and Jeffress ready to go in Game 5. 

Then, if Game 6 rolled around, Hader and Woodruff become factors again. Hell, Gonzalez could probably come back if he only threw something like 45 pitches. Then Game 7 would have Chacin and surely everyone else would be in an "all hands on deck" situation. 

In a scenario where the Brewers get down early in Game 4, then Counsell can piece the game together without using Hader, Knebel or Jeffress and be ready to be aggressive behind Miley in Game 5. The hypothetical bullpen availability for Games 6 and 7 above still apply. 

"We feel like we're in really good shape," Counsell said after Game 3. "Corey got five outs in 19 pitches, which is important for us. So we feel like -- we're trying to win the series. We're not just trying to win games here, we're trying to win the series. We've put ourselves in games 4 and 5 with tonight's effort."

Getting that Game 3 win with the effort of Chacin and Knebel and limiting Hader's workload to just eight pitches was huge in helping the Brewers set up the rest of the NLCS with regards to their pitching. Things could unravel, sure, but I agree with Counsell. They are in great shape when it comes to how things have lined up after three games, two of them wins. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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