Oct. 21, 2018
Bellinger and Puig Power Dodgers to Game 7 Victory, Meeting with Boston in World Series
Game 7. The two best words in sports that every fan loves to hear. The pressure is high, the tension can be cut with a knife, and two teams are fighting for their playoff lives or the right to be called the best team in their sport. In this case, the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers went into Game 7 at Miller Park looking to keep their respective playoff runs alive and earn a spot in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox starting on Tuesday.
The Miller Park crowd was rocking as the Brewers were looking to earn their first pennant since 1982 when they were still in the American League. If they wanted to do it, they would have to find a way to get to the rookie Walker Buehler. The right-hander was just the fourth rookie in the last 30 years to start a Game 7 and the first since Daisuke Matsuzaka back in the 2007 ALCS for the Red Sox. He did not get off to the start he wanted as he gave up a solo home run to MVP candidate Christian Yelich who was mired in a 4-for-24 slump with just one extra base-hit in the series to ignite the home crowd. Toeing the rubber for the Brewers was Jhoulys Chacin who came into this game with a 0.00 ERA in 10 1/3 innings over the course of two starts. He shut down the Dodgers back in Game 3 but it was a different story in this contest.
After getting out of the first inning unscathed, Chacin allowed a bunt single to Manny Machado before Cody Bellinger teed off for a two-run home run to quiet the Milwaukee crowd and give the Dodgers the 2-1 advantage. Next, Yaisel Puig doubled before the right-hander retired the next three batters to avoid further damage from being done. However that would be all for Chacin as he produced a final line of two runs on three hits, no strikeouts, and one walk over just two innings of work. Relieving him was the hard throwing Josh Hader who had been nothing short of dominant this postseason. In seven appearances up to last night, Hader had worked 10 innings, allowing no runs on five hits, struck out 16, and walked just one. On Saturday night, it was more of the same for the young 24-year-old reliever who did his job to keep the Brewers in the game. The left-hander pitched three innings of relief, allowing no runs on one hit, striking out four, and walking one. He was pinch hit for in the bottom of the fifth by Domingo Santana, signaling the end of his day.
Meanwhile, Walker Buehler was rolling after giving up that solo home run to Yelich. Buehler allowed two baserunners in the second but got pinch hitter Johnathan Schoop to ground out to end the threat. A leadoff double by Travis Shaw in the fourth also resulted in nothing for Milwaukee as the rookie starter retired the next three batters, including two via the strikeout. After giving up a two-out double to Lorenzo Cain, Buehler's day was over as Yelich was getting ready to step into the box and Julio Urias was tasked with getting the final out of the fifth inning. Urias got Yelich into an 0-2 count before the right fielder lined a ball deep into the left field gap which looked like trouble. But Chris Taylor covered a tremendous amount of ground, reached up to try snagging the ball and made a sliding catch to end the inning on what looked like a game-tying hit for Yelich. With that Buehler's line for the day was capped off at 4 2/3 innings of one run ball in which he gave up six hits, struck out seven and walked none.
Eager to give the bullpen a larger cushion, the Dodgers wasted no time with a leadoff single by Max Muncy off reliever Xavier Cedeno and a Justin Turner single off reliever Jeremy Jeffress to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Jeffress would retire the next two batters via fly ball by Machado and fielder's choice by Bellinger which put runners on the corners with Yasiel Puig at the dish and the chance to do damage. Puig did just that as he took a 1-1 knuckle curve over the center field fence in which he flipped the bat after making contact and celebrated as he rounded the bases on the three-run home run that put Los Angeles in front, 5-1, in the sixth. It would be up to the Milwaukee offense to catch fire like they did the night before to force a Game 7.
However, their bats would be held quiet by relief pitcher Ryan Madson who retired the first five batters he faced between the sixth and seventh inning before allowing a single to Orlando Arcia which ended his relief appearance after 1 2/3 innings in which he gave up no runs on one hit, struck out two, and walked none. Taking his place on the mound was Kenley Jansen. Jansen got the final out of the seventh by striking out pinch hitter Curtis Granderson stepping in for reliever Corey Knebel who got the final two outs of the top half of the frame. With just two innings to go, the Dodgers were six outs away from returning to the World Series for the second straight year and sending the Brewers home for the winter.
Jansen would return for the next inning and set the Brewers down 1-2-3 to put Los Angeles three outs away from a date with the Red Sox in the World Series. Brandon Woodruff pitched the eighth and ninth for the Brewers as he looked to keep the deficit at four runs. Woodruff struck out the side in the eighth before running into some trouble in the ninth. A single by Puig and double by Taylor put runners on second and third with nobody out, but Woodruff would bounce back to retire Austin Barnes on a ground out before intentionally walking Matt Kemp who pinch hit for Jansen to load the bases. The young lefty reliever took care of Kike Hernandez and Max Muncy with back-to-back strikeouts to total up five strikeouts in his two innings of relief and kept the score at 5-1.
With three outs to go, the Dodgers turned to their ace starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw to send them to the World Series. Brewers fans remained loud, but the bats of the players stayed quiet as Kershaw set them down 1-2-3 and struck out Mike Moustakas with a 2-2 fastball to send the Dodgers to the World Series to face the Boston Red Sox. With the hitting core of the Brewers and young pitching staff they have for the future, they will likely be back in the postseason next season. But for now it is the Dodgers who reign supreme in the National League as they look to win their first World Series title since 1988 starting on Tuesday night.
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