The Los Angeles Dodgers probably won't return to the World Series if they again commit four errors and surrender a home run to an opposing pitcher in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
Those improbable outcomes likely won't carry over into Saturday's showing. Yet they nearly overcame these obstacles, as the Milwaukee Brewers' revered bullpen barely salvaged a dramatic 6-5 victory Friday.
For the second day in a row, each squad will commence the game with a left-handed starter on the mound. Both of them kept the opposition scoreless in National League Division Series sightings.
After horrid defense and a Brandon Woodruff homer undid Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers will turn to Hyun-Jin Ryu, an unheralded ace over the past two months. The Brewers will counter with Wade Miley, an innings-eater who has transformed his career by overhauling his pitch arsenal.
Dodgers vs. Brewers: Game 2 Schedule
When: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 4:09 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Live TV
At first glance, Ryu vs. Miley doesn't represent a superb pitching duel befitting the grand stage. After all, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander clash later in the evening.
While Ryu can't match the pedigree of his superstar rotation teammate, the 31-year-old quietly registered a 1.97 ERA and career-high 27.5 strikeout percentage in 15 superb regular-season starts. He then opened the NLDS by scattering eight strikeouts and no walks over seven shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves:
Dominating in a Game 1 nod received over Kershaw marks quite a turnaround for someone left off last year's postseason roster. Having undergone shoulder labrum surgery in 2015, he hadn't made a playoff appearance since 2014 despite the Dodgers' winning the NL West in each of the past six years.
Following his latest gem, Ryu has relinquished one run in his past four starts. He has also not given up more than three earned runs in a single turn this year, so the Dodgers can at least count on a competitive outing.
He's somehow not even this matchup's most improbable Game 2 starter. Playing for his fifth team in as many years, Miley posted an ERA north of 5.00 in each of the past two seasons. That makes this season's 2.57 clip extra shocking when paired with a mediocre 50 strikeouts and 27 walks in 80.2 innings.
A 37.1 hard-hit percentage and 4.66 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) foreshadow a vengeful regression. Yet perhaps those predictive measures don't appreciate the journeyman's adjustments.
Miley sidelined his fastball for a previously seldom-used cutter. The pitch's usage skyrocketed from 11.5 to 41.8 percent, and opponents are hitting .190/.258/.303 against the offering.
Buoyed by his new weapon, Miley accomplished exactly what the Brewers needed in the NLDS by holding the Colorado Rockies scoreless for 4.2 innings at Coors Field. Their extraordinary bullpen yielded one hit the rest of the way.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell will hope to execute the same plan on Saturday. He won't, however, have Josh Hader at his disposal after the shutdown reliever recorded nine outs over 46 pitches—a longer appearance than starter Gio Gonzalez—to secure Game 1's victory:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Josh Hader made it difficult on the Dodgers in Game 1. He induced 15 swings and misses, tied for his most in a game in 94 career outings (regular season & postseason). Hader's 15 swings and misses are 2 more than any other reliever in a postseason game in the last 10 seasons. https://t.co/qQxrzxaoyL
By using another starting southpaw, Counsell is daring Dodgers counterpart Dave Roberts to again sit Max Muncy—hardly a necessary move since he managed an .891 OPS against fellow lefties—and Yasiel Puig. Their weighted runs created plus (wRC+) dropped from 117 against righties to a slightly above-average 101 versus lefties during the season.
"There's going to be some kind of chess played this series, and that's part of the fun," Roberts said prior to Game 1, per The Ringer's Michael Baumann.
Yet they have plenty of depth to deal with any adversary, especially after adding right-handed infielders Brian Dozier and David Freese during the summer.
Travis Shaw is the only Milwaukee regular who's a major liability (66 wRC+) with a lefty on the mound, but Counsell replaced the out-of-position second baseman for Hernan Perez on Friday.
Pick: Dodgers 5, Brewers 3
The Dodgers can again field a nearly all-righty lineup—with exception to Cody Bellinger—that saves Muncy, Puig and Joc Pederson for big spots against Milwaukee's premier bullpen. With Woodruff and Hader almost certainly unavailable, Counsell may think twice before again turning to a righty so early.
Yet Miley tallied the sixth-lowest strikeout percentage (14.8) of any starter with at least 80 innings pitched, so the Dodgers could force an early hook by jumping to a significant lead.
Propelled by major league-caliber defense and a strong performance from Ryu, look for the Dodgers send the series back to Los Angeles even. It's impossible, however, to feel overly confident about any prediction in a series wherein a reliever who was batting from the left side took Kershaw deep.
All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.