2018 National League Division Series 1
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|2018 National League Division Series|
96 - 67 in the NL
|3 - 0
91 - 72 in the NL
The first National League Division Series of 2018 featured an unprecedented match-up, with the Milwaukee Brewers going up against the Colorado Rockies, with both teams having had to travel a arduous road to get there: the Brewers had to win their last 8 regular season games, including a one-game playoff on the road against the Chicago Cubs, while the Rockies also had to go on a late-season winning streak, but in Game 1 would play their fourth game in four different cities, having had to leave their home park of Coors Field where they had won Game #162, then to Dodger Stadium when a loss in another one-game playoff had sent them to Wrigley Field for the Wild Card Game. A tense 13-inning win had then punched their ticket to this round, where they opened the Series at Miller Park. They were tired - but happy to have made it thus far.
In the end the Brewers' pitching - and especially their bullpen - completely dominated the Rockies' bats. In 28 innings in which the Rockies batted, they scored in just one: the 9th inning of Game 1. They never had a lead the entire series and even though none of their three starting pitchers gave up more than two runs, they were always trailing by the time the bullpen was called in, and their relievers only made things worse. It was a convincing sweep by Milwaukee, who played like a team having put up the best record in the league.
The Milwaukee Brewers had made an unsuccessful late-season run for the postseason in 2017, and then been locked in a tight race often featuring three or four teams for the NL Central title in 2018. But when the dust had finally settled after 163 games, they had the best record in the National League. This was a team whose main strength was with the bat, and primarily those of its two sluggers, RF Christian Yelich and 1B Jesus Aguilar. But CF Lorenzo Cain was just as dangerous an offensive player, and the line-up was full of other strong hitters, such as LF Ryan Braun, IF Travis Shaw and 3B Mike Moustakas. Manager Craig Counsell, who had been part of the last Brewers team to make the postseason in 2011, had a lot of weapons to work with.
The starting rotation wasn't as strong, however, as the previous year's best two pitchers had contributed next to nothing in 2018: Jimmy Nelson had missed the entire season with an injury, and Zach Davies was injured for part of it, and inefficient when able to pitch. Another starter, Chase Anderson, had led the NL in gopher balls, and was not on the postseason roster either. So they had to rely on Jhoulys Chacin, Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley as starters, and the occasional bullpen game, including in Game 1 of this series. But in contrast, the bullpen was tremendous, with Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Corbin Burnes all having had success. It was just a question of having a lead to bring to them.
After their convoluted route to the Series, the Colorado Rockies were happy just to be there, but why stop now? Contrary to most editions of Rockies teams over the years, they were not a dominating offensive force, but they had some solid players in their line-up in 3B Nolan Arenado, SS Trevor Story and CF Charlie Blackmon. However, others like 1B Ian Desmond, C Chris Iannetta or RF Gerardo Parra were coming off below average seasons; even 2B D.J. LeMahieu, a former batting champion, had hit well below his usual production. Which was why manager Bud Black had inserted OFs David Dahl and Matt Holliday in the starting line-up in the Wild Card Game in hope of stirring up some more offense. Defensively, however, this was a very solid team.
On the mound though, the Rockies were unexpectedly solid, with an excellent threesome of second-year pitchers in Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela. Jon Gray had had a disappointing year, but his stuff could be dominating as well, and Tyler Anderson was another solid starter. The bullpen also had some weapons, principally closer Wade Davis and set-up men Adam Ottavino and Scott Oberg. If the Rockies' starters continued to pitch well, as they had done of late, they could carry this team a lot further, especially with the knowledge that they were not intimidated at all by pitching in Coors Field, something that could not so easily said of any potential opponents.
- Mike Muchlinski, Kerwin Danley, Ted Barrett (crew chief), Todd Tichenor, Alfonso Marquez and John Tumpane
|1||Colorado Rockies 2 Milwaukee Brewers 3||Antonio Senzatela (0-0) Brandon Woodruff (0-0)||October 4||5:07 pm|
|2||Colorado Rockies 0 Milwaukee Brewers 4||Tyler Anderson (0-1) Jhoulys Chacin (1-0)||October 5||4:15 pm|
|3||Milwaukee Brewers 6 Colorado Rockies 0||Wade Miley (0-0) German Marquez (0-1)||October 7||4:37 pm|
Game 1 @ Miller Park
|WP: Joakim Soria (1-0); LP: Adam Ottavino (0-1)|
|Home Runs: MIL - Christian Yelich (1)|
- Attendance: 43,382
The Brewers decided to go with a bullpen game in Game 1, with Colorado forced to use its number 3 starter, Antonio Senzatela, since they had used their two best starters in just getting to the Division Series. For eight innings, the Brewers' strategy worked brilliantly. Young Brandon Woodruff got the game started with 3 solid innings in which he gave up just one baserunner, D.J. LeMahieu, who reached on a walk but was caught stealing by Manny Pina. For his part, Senzatela pitched two scoreless innings before issuing a walk to Lorenzo Cain in the 3rd, which was immediately followed by a home run to center by Christian Yelich. The Brewers had an early 2-0 lead, and these were the only runs scored until the 9th.
Senzatela settled after the 3rd and added two other scoreless innings, while for the Brewers Corbin Burnes pitched a couple of scoreless innings. He did give up a triple to Carlos Gonzalez, but it came with two outs in the 5th, and Gonzalez was left stranded when Ian Desmond grounded softly back to him. That hit was the Rockies' only one through 8 innings, and in fact their only other baserunner, pinch-hitter Ryan McMahon who drew a walk in the 6th against Corey Knebel, was also caught stealing. For their part, the Brewers wasted a number of opportunities to pad their lead, and it would come back to bite them. In the 6th, Yelich led off with a single off Chris Rusin, and Ryan Braun followed by lining a ball above first baseman Desmond's head, but when the ball touched Desmond's glove to fall into the outfield, Braun thought it had been caught and returned to first base. By the time the first base coach could tell him to head for second, it was too late, and RF David Dahl's relay easily forced him out at second, negating what should have been the start of an interesting inning. In the 7th, the Brewers put two men on with one out against Rusin, but DJ Johnson came in and struck out Hernan Perez and Cain to end the inning. The biggest wasted opportunity was in the 8th, however, as, with Harrison Musgrave pitching, Yelich drew a lead-off walk and moved to third on a single by Braun. Braun then stole second, but Musgrave struck out Travis Shaw and PH Keon Broxton. After an intentional walk to Mike Moustakas, Scott Oberg came in and forced Pina to hit a ground ball to end the threat.
It was now up to Jeremy Jeffress to close out the game with a two-run lead, but he failed miserably. He first gave up back-to-back singles to pinch-hitters Gerardo Parra and Matt Holliday. Garrett Hampson ran for Holliday and the next batter, Charlie Blackmon hit a ball that dropped in the right field corner to bounce into the stands. The original call was an automatic double, but a video review showed that the ball had been foul by less than an inch. The Brewers had been lucky, but Blackmon followed with a single to right that scored a first run. LeMahieu then hit a grounder to shortstop, but Orlando Arcia could not come up with it cleanly, and the bases were loaded on the error. Nolan Arenado then hit a fly ball to center for a sacrifice fly that tied the game, and Blackmon advanced to third. On the next pitch, Dahl hit a ball to Shaw at first base, who threw home and caught Blackmon in a rundown. This was a key play, as he was tagged for the second out, and Jeffress followed by striking out Trevor Story. The Rockies had tied the game, but disaster had been averted for Milwaukee.
Adam Ottavino retired the Brewers in the bottom of the 9th and Joakim Soria did the same to the Rockies in the top of the 10th, but in the bottom of that inning, Milwaukee mounted a game-winning rally. Yelich once again started things off with a walk. He was looking to steal second, but did not have to bother as Ottavino threw a ball well outside to Braun for a wild pitch, putting him on second. Braun struck out, but Shaw was walked intentionally. Curtis Granderson then batted for Soria and hit a ball up the middle. A defensive shift meant that the ball did not end up in the outfield (which would have scored Yelich), but it also prevented the Rockies from turning a double play, as they could just force out Shaw at second. Next up was Moustakas and on an 0-2 pitch, he lined a ball into right field, ending the game on a run-scoring single.
Game 2 @ Miller Park
|WP: Jhoulys Chacin (1-0); LP: Tyler Anderson (0-1); SV: Jeremy Jeffress (1)|
|Home Runs: none|
- Attendance: 44,547
The Brewers were winners again in Game 2, as their pitchers shut down the Rockies' bats and they managed to put up just enough runs of their own. Most of the game was a pitching duel between Jhoulys Chacin for Milwaukee and Tyler Anderson for Colorado, with Anderson giving up just 1 run in 6 innings while Chacin did not give up any in 5. The only run of that stretch came in the bottom of the 4th when Mike Moustakas doubled with one out and Hernan Perez followed with an automatic double. Perez then stole third and after Travis Shaw had drawn a walk, he tried stealing home when Shaw was caught off first base by a pick-off throw. But the Rockies managed to cut him down at home as Shaw made it to second safely, then stole third as well. However, Erik Kratz flied out to end the inning.
Domingo Santana batted for Chacin in the bottom of the 5th and Corey Knebel came in to pitch, tossing a perfect inning. He was replaced by Joakim Soria in the 7th, who allowed a lead-off single to Ian Desmond, who quickly stole second. However, Chris Iannetta struck out, as did Matt Holliday, who pinch-hit for Anderson. Josh Hader replaced Soria and got Charlie Blackmon to line out to second to end the inning. In the bottom of the 7th, it was the Brewers' turn to waste a scoring opportunity. With Scott Oberg now pitching, Perez hit another automatic double to lead-off the frame, then Shaw followed with a single. Up next was Kratz, who struck out, as did Jonathan Schoop, who was pinch-hitting for Hader. Lorenzo Cain also failed to cash in either of the runners by striking out too. Craig Counsell was forced to bring in another pitcher and asked Jeremy Jeffress to come out, in spite of his failure the previous day. He reeled off a scoreless half-inning, and the Brewers finally broke through with some insurance runs in the bottom of the inning. Harrison Musgrave was now pitching, and he walked lead-off hitter Christian Yelich, which prompted Bud Black to call on Seunghwan Oh to pitch. He did not do the job, allowing a single to Ryan Braun and walking Jesus Aguilar to load the bases with nobody out. Moustakas was up next, and he singled to right to drive in a second run. Oh then managed to strike out Perez, and Black now called in Chris Rusin to pitch. During all that time, he still had closer Wade Davis available, but never contemplated bringing him in as the game was getting away from him, hearkening back to the old days of ace reliever usage before managers such as Terry Francona and Joe Maddon had exploded them. In any case, Rusin managed to strike out Shaw, bringing up journeyman back-up catcher Kratz, who had already failed twice to drive in a runner from third base. This time, though, he delivered, with a single to left that allowed Braun and pinch-runner Orlando Arcia to score. It was now 4-0 and the game was basically over, something which Counsell confirmed by letting Jeffress bat for himself (he hit a tapper back to Rusin to end the inning).
There was not going to be a second 9th-inning meltdown by Jeffress; he did allow a lead-off single by Gerardo Parra but then struck out Desmond and pinch-hitter Ryan McMahon before David Dahl grounded out to second base to end the game. The Brewers were now up by two games, and the Rockies' sole consolation was that they were now headed for home and had their best two starters lined up to pitch in Game 3 and Game 4, if the Series went that far.
Game 3 @ Coors Field
|WP: Corbin Burnes (1-0); LP: German Marquez (0-1)|
|Home Runs: MIL - Jesus Aguilar (1), Orlando Arcia (1), Keon Broxton (1)|
- Attendance: 49,658
Moving to Coors Field, the Rockies felt good to have German Marquez, the National League Pitcher of the Month, for September on the mound against another late-season acquisition for the Brewers in Wade Miley. However, they still needed to put up some runs on the board, which had been their problem all series, and unfortunately for their fans, they were unable to do so, being shut out for the second straight game as the Brewers cruised to a 6-0 win.
Marquez made a first mistake very early when he walked Christian Yelich with one out in the 1st. Ryan Braun followed with a single, moving Yelich to third, who scored the game's first run when Travis Shaw grounded to second, forcing Braun. The Rockies stranded a couple of runners in the 2nd and another in the 3rd after D.J. LeMahieu hit a two-out double, as the Brewers' early lead held. Marquez had settled down well, but with one out in the 4th, he left a breaking ball hanging against Jesus Aguilar and the big man crushed it deep into the bleachers in left field to double Milwaukee's lead. The Brewers threatened again in the 5th when Lorenzo Cain singled with one out, then was forced out by Yelich. Yelich stole second and moved to third on an infield single by Braun, but Shaw hit another grounder which hit Braun, who was called out for interference.
The Rockies managed to chase Miley in the 5th, but it wasn't necessarily a good thing as it brought in the first of Milwaukee's relievers, who had been excellent so far in the series. Tony Wolters, starting at catcher in place of Chris Iannetta, hit a single with one out and Garrett Hampson was sent in to pinch hit for Marquez. He forced out Wolters for the second out. Craig Counsell had a plan from the start not to let Miley face the batting order a third time, and with the top of the line-up coming up, he replaced him with Corey Knebel, regardless of the fact he had pitched very well until then. Knebel then struck out Charlie Blackmon to end the inning. Scott Oberg came out in the 6th, but after striking out Aguilar, he allowed a single to Mike Moustakas and a double to Erik Kratz. After a second out, Counsell rolled the dice and called on Curtis Granderson to pinch hit for Knebel, figuring he had enough bullpen arms to last the final four innings. Granderson struck out swinging, but not before both runners had scored on a balk followed by a wild pitch. Things were now looking really bleak for the Rockies, and Joakim Soria took the mound and put up another zero in the bottom of the inning to dig the hole a little deeper. Corbin Burnes succeeded him in the 7th, and he faced six batters over two innings, retiring all six in order to bring Colorado to the brink of elimination.
At 4-0 in the top of the 9th, the Brewers' lead was comfortable, but not insurmountable. Looking to keep it that way, Bud Black sent his closer, Wade Davis, to pitch the final inning, but the veteran did not have it that day. Orlando Arcia greeted him with a long ball and Keon Broxton, who had come in as a defensive replacement a couple of innings earlier, followed him by hitting another one, then Cain drew a walk, as did Yelich. Chris Rusin came in to pitch and he walked pinch-hitter Domingo Santana to load the bases with nobody out. Things could have become very ugly, but a shallow fly ball by Shaw and a double play grounder by Aguilar ended the inning with no additional damage. Jeremy Jeffress came in to close out the win and after one out, he allowed a double to Trevor Story then walked Matt Holliday. Not wanting to take any chances, Counsell asked his best reliever, Josh Hader, to come out and nail down the series, which he promptly did by striking out Carlos Gonzalez and getting Ian Desmond to fly out center. The 6-0 win sent Milwaukee to the NLCS, having outscored Colorado 13-2 over the three games.
- Thomas Harding: "Season ends quietly as Rockies fall in Game 3: Unable to summon Coors magic, club shut out in consecutive games", mlb.com, October 7, 2018. 
- Tom Haudricourt: Special Brew - An Inside Look at the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers, KCI Sports Publishing, Stevens Point, WI, 2019. ISBN 978-1940056753
- Daniel Kramer: "Brewers ride dominant relief corps to NLCS: Milwaukee has rested bullpen for upcoming best-of-seven series", mlb.com, October 8, 2018. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Brewers offer master class in modern baseball in sweep of Rockies", USA Today, October 7, 2018. 
- Adam McCalvy: "Brewers sweep Rockies, advance to NLCS: Crew punches ticket to 3rd LCS in club history with 11th straight win", mlb.com, October 8, 2018. 
- Adam McCalvy and Thomas Harding: "Rockies-Brewers: Lineups, matchups, FAQs", mlb.com, October 4, 2018. 
- JR Radcliffe: "What should Brewers expect from Rockies in NLDS?", USA Today, October 3, 2018. 
- Jesse Yomtov: "Brewers-Rockies NLDS: Four keys to victory", USA Today, October 4, 2018. 
|Major League Baseball National League Division Series