The Milwaukee Brewers did all they could to hand game one of the National League Division Series back to the Colorado Rockies but they were able to come away with a 3-2 win in 10 innings.
A Mike Moustakas walk-off single ensured the Brewers drew first blood in the NLDS opener on Thursday.
Milwaukee had a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning only to see Jeremy Jeffress allow three straight hits to tie the game.
The Brewers then had to make their way through another inning having used all of their best relievers in Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and Jeffress in earlier innings.
But they were able to get by and Moustakas, who they acquired at the trade deadline for a couple of prospects, won the game by plating Christian Yelich with the winning run.
Yelich went two for three with a two-run homer and two walks.
Woodruff, Burnes make openers look good
The Oakland Athletics gave the opener a bad rap on Wednesday as Liam Hendriks gave up two runs in two batters to start the game in a 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees in the American League wildcard game midweek.
The Brewers made it look a lot better on Thursday as Brandon Woodruff tossed three hitless innings and Corbin Burnes followed with another two scoreless frames.
The two pitchers gave up one hit combined in the game and helped the Brewers get off to a good start. They made the opener look good, but at the same time, they kind of deceived everyone watching. Woodruff and Barnes are not your typical relievers. Yes, they combined to make 45 relief appearances this season, but they both came up through the minors as starters.
They were actually the Brewers' fourth and fifth prospects last season. It is still an impressive feat to get two youngsters to step in as "openers" and toss five shutout innings, but if we learned anything from a 20-year-old Madison Bumgarner in 2010, a 21-year-old Lance McCullers Jr. in 2015 and even a 25-year-old Kyle Freeland Tuesday, just because starters are young, it does not mean they cannot handle the pressure. Burnes and Woodruff made the opener work, but they are much more than relievers. They could be starters for Milwaukee for years to come.
Stay with the hot hand
Let's preface this by saying, we know Josh Hader had thrown 1.3 innings, 20 pitches and had right-handed hitters due up first and second to start the ninth inning, however, hindsight being 20-20, taking Hader out of the game after Rockies hitters barely sniffed contact against the lefty was a mistake. If a hitter cannot catch up to your fastball, do not throw him a change-up.
Hader has been one of the most unhittable relievers in all of baseball this year, and possibly posted the best season by a lefty reliever of all time striking out 143 batters in 81.3 innings. He can crank his fastball up to 99 and has a Randy Johnson-esque slider to go with it. He was the best option to finish off a game the Brewers had in the bag and Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell went to Jeremy Jeffress to close it out in the ninth. Even though Jeffress had the second-best ERA for a reliever in MLB this season, the Rockies never proved they could touch Hader's stuff. Do not give them a new lease on life.
Jeffress does not nearly have the power stuff of Hader and it played right into the hands of Gerardo Parra who pinch-hit and an older Matt Holiday whose bat speed has lessened as he has aged. They both got on with hits and Charlie Blackmon followed that up with a knock of his own. Two batters later the game was tied. They should have stuck with Hader.
First game matters for Brewers
While this may be the case for every MLB team, winning the first game of a series is a great thing for the Brewers. While teams play two-, three- and four-game series during the regular season and not five games like in the playoffs, the Brewers thrive off winning the first game of a series.
Milwaukee won the first game of a series 32 times this season. They went on to win 25 of those series and tied five of them, so just two times did they win the first game and go on to either lose two of the next three or three of the next four.
The Brewers make a living off their bats and when they get out in front they are tough to catch. They are now out in front of the Rockies and all the pressure is on Colorado, just like Milwaukee like it.
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