LOS ANGELES — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell took his National League Championship Series chess match with Dodgers counterpart Dave Roberts to a new level in the early stages of Wednesday’s 5-2 Game 5 loss.
Counsell pulled starter Wade Miley after he walked Dodgers leadoff man Cody Bellinger on five pitches. Miley is a lefty, as is Bellinger, but most of Los Angeles’ lineup was composed of right-handed hitters.
Right-hander Brandon Woodruff replaced Miley, who will start Game 6 on Friday in Milwaukee. Counsell said that was his plan from the outset.
“If we went down 3-1, we were considering having Wade pitch this game,” Counsell said. “But other than that, this is kinda what we decided we were gonna do.”
Miley will now start what is an elimination game for the Brewers as they trail the best-of-seven series 3-2.
Asked why he simply didn’t start Woodruff on Wednesday, Counsell said it was all about trying to put his team in the best position to win.
“They’re trying to get matchups; we’re trying to get matchups,” Counsell said. “They’re a very tough team to get matchups against. And we were able to get Woody some matchups.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had two left-handed hitters in the starting lineup Wednesday, after going with an entirely right-handed lineup when Miley started Game 2.
“Obviously our lineup today was different than the other lineup when we faced Miley. So you gotta prepare for the unexpected,” Roberts said. “So I like where we were at (after Miley was pulled).”
The move by Counsell was mildly surprising for a couple of reasons.
Miley threw 5⅔ scoreless innings in Game 2, providing much-needed length for a team that leans heavily on its bullpen.
The Brewers’ bullpen also threw 11⅔ innings in a five-hour, 2-1 loss to the Dodgers in 13 innings Tuesday night. While that was just two innings shy of the postseason record, it did set the mark for the longest outing by a bullpen in a loss.
Miley is the second pitcher in postseason history to start a game and face only one batter. The other was Johnny Cueto, who struck out the only batter he faced in Game 1 of the 2012 NL Division Series before leaving with back spasms.