Milwaukee Brewers: Game 5 Win Implications for the NLCS
But the fashion in which the Brewers moved on to the NLCS was anything but the norm.
Francisco Rodriguez nearly blew the lead in the eighth inning, barely escaping a bases-loaded jam. John Axford suffered his first blown save since April 18 but pitched the 10th inning to earn the victory. Manager Ron Roenicke could face some tough decisions against the Cardinals based on the performance of certain players against Arizona.
With that in mind, what implications will the events of Game 5 have going forward to the NLCS for the Brewers?
Yovani Gallardo Shows Again He's the Brewers' Only Dependable Starter
In Game 5, Yovani Gallardo proved once again that he's the ace of the Brewers rotation. He made the only two quality starts for the Brewers in the five games against the Diamondbacks.
Gallardo gave up just two runs over 14 NLDS innings. Each of the other three starters the Brewers put forward gave up at least four runs in no more than five innings of work.
Gallardo didn't get the win in Game 5, but he did what he needed to in order to put the Crew in position to win. Unfortunately, he won't be available until probably Game 3 of the NLCS.
Nyjer Morgan Redeems Himself
After a rough first few games against the Diamondbacks, Nyjer Morgan (aka Tony Plush) redeemed himself in a major way in the series-clinching Game 5 win.
Morgan scored the first run of the game for the Brewers and then knocked in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 10th. As Ryan Braun said, Tony "Clutch" came through in a big way for the biggest hit of the Brewers 2011 season.
With his Game 5 performance, Morgan proved he belongs in the lineup for the NLCS. If he can channel his inner beast mode a few more times against his own arch-nemesis, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers could be celebrating their first trip to the World Series since 1982.
Jerry Hairston Jr. Getting It Done in Place of Casey McGehee
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made the call to start Jerry Hairston Jr. in place of the struggling Casey McGehee at third base against the Diamondbacks. Hairston validated his manager's decision in a big way.
Starting all five games, Hairston batted .375 with six runs, a pair of doubles and two walks. He nearly broke open Game 5 with a long drive to center, but the D-Backs center fielder made a spectacular catch to rob Hairston of an extra-base hit and a couple of RBIs.
If Hairston can replicate his impressive NLDS performance against the Cardinals he could give Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder some much-needed protection in the bottom half of the lineup.
Carlos Gomez or Corey Hart?
Carlos Gomez came into Game 5 late as a defensive replacement for Corey Hart, but ended up making the decisive contribution at the plate.
The speedy Gomez singled with one out in the bottom of the tenth inning and took second base on a wild pitch. When Nyjer Morgan bounced a J.J. Putz offering into center field, Gomez raced around third to score the winning run and send the Brewers to their first NLCS ever.
The question for Ron Roenicke will be which outfielder to sit in the NLCS. Gomez went 3-4 against the Diamondbacks in limited action, while Hart batted just .238 in the NLDS without a walk.
Roenicke could also elect to sit Nyjer Morgan, but my guess is that despite Gomez's success in the NLDS he'll start Hart and Morgan and reserve Gomez for a defensive replacement. Gomez also could see additional action against the Cardinals if Hart or Morgan struggles in the first couple of games.
A Short Leash for Axford in the NLCS?
Could John Axford be on a short leash as the Brewers closer if he blows another save in the NLCS?
Axford struggled against the Diamondbacks in Game 5, blowing the save before recovering to pitch a scoreless 10th and earn the win.
With Francisco Rodriguez also in the bullpen (and with a lower ERA over the regular season than Axford), could Roenicke decide to go to K-Rod in a save situation is Axford blows another one against the Cardinals?
I doubt it. Axford converted 44 consecutive saves before his near-meltdown in the ninth inning. Also, Rodriguez hasn't exactly been lights-out in the postseason. He had to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning.
Axford's blown save is cause for concern, but I don't think Roenicke will make any knee-jerk reactions and replace his closer at this point of the year.