Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell has been unconventional with his pitching staff for the entire National League Championship Series, but he took it to a whole nother level in Game 5 when he started left-hander Wade Miley on three days’ rest but then removed him after one batter in favor of right-hander Brandon Woodruff.
The move was a clever one as the Dodgers typically utilize platoons based on the handedness of the opposing starter. But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts anticipated something may have been amiss.
Left-handed hitters Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy were still in the lineup, with Bellinger batting leadoff. “Well, obviously our lineup today was different than the other lineup when we faced Miley,” Roberts said after his club’s win. “So you’ve got to prepare for the unexpected. I like where we were at.”
The move looked to be working for a while as Woodruff tossed four scoreless innings to begin the game. However, the Dodgers eventually got to him and tagged him for five hits and three runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings in their 5-2 victory to take a 3-2 series lead.
Roberts wasn’t ready to admit that he wasn’t surprised by the move, but he emphasized that he and his club were anticipating anything. “Again, you never know. It was very unconventional, but we were prepared for anything,” Roberts said.
Miley is now set to start at Miller Park in Game 6 of the NLCS. He will all but certainly face more than one hitter in that game. There was a scenario in which Miley would have made a more conventional start on Wednesday.
“Yeah, that’s what we were going to do all along,” Counsell answered when asked if the Brewers only intended to have Miley face one batter. “If we went down 3-1 (in the series) we were considering having Wade pitch this game. But other than that, this is kind of what we decided we were going to do.”
With the Brewers’ biggest strength being their bullpen, and the Dodgers’ being their positional player depth, the NLCS has been quite the chess match between the two managers.
Roberts seemed to have pulled the right strings on Wednesday, and the Dodgers are now just one win away from returning to the World Series for the second consecutive season.
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