The Milwaukee Brewers forced a deciding game in the 2018 NLCS with a 7-2 victory Friday night over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
Jesus Aguilar, Mike Moustakas and Erik Kratz delivered run-scoring hits as part of the Brewers' four-run first inning after David Freese had crushed a leadoff home run for the Dodgers.
L.A. threatened a comeback in the fifth when it brought the tying run to the plate, but Corey Knebel came out of the bullpen to secure two key outs and preserve the lead, which Milwaukee never relinquished.
Brewers' Depth Will Continue To Prove Vital
Although much attention was given to the dominance of Brew Crew outfielder Christian Yelich during the second half of the season—and rightfully so—the team's ability to get contributions from anywhere in the order was also crucial to edging the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.
It's a theme that's carried into the club's postseason run and was on full display Friday, as the Brewers got key hits from Aguilar, Moustakas and Kratz. Their hits in the first inning immediately changed the outlook of the game after Los Angeles had grabbed the early lead.
If playoff trends hold, the Dodgers aren't going to give Yelich or Ryan Braun much to hit in Game 7. They have combined for seven walks in the series, as L.A. has been content to force them to chase outside the zone or accept the base on balls to make Milwaukee's other hitters drive in runs.
The same could be said on the pitching side. Knebel was one of six Brewers relievers to appear in at least 49 games during the regular season, and only one of them had an ERA above 4.00 (Taylor Williams). Having so many reliable options out of the bullpen takes away a lot of pressure, especially in a Game 7.
"Our depth is what's been valuable," manager Craig Counsell told reporters before the playoffs. "And we feel like it's helped us and allowed us [to win games], and there's been nights where that doesn't happen."
Another strong showing from that unheralded group of secondary contributors Saturday night would likely push Milwaukee into the World Series.
Dodgers Must End Power Outage
Freese's homer to open Game 6 was just the Dodgers' third of the NLCS. The lack of long balls for an offense with so much pop is a main reason the series is going the distance.
Los Angeles ranked second in the majors and first in the National League with 235 home runs during the regular season. The club added eight more during its NLDS destruction of the Atlanta Braves, with six different players going yard in the four-game series.
If the Dodgers are going to turn the tide back in their favor for Game 7, it's probably going to take a sudden return to form in the power department.
While the onus is mostly on Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger to put their game-changing power on display, the Dodgers featured 10 different players with at least 13 homers during the regular season. So there's enough pop throughout the lineup to make serious noise.
Milwaukee's Home-Field Advantage Makes It Game 7 Favorite
The Brewers have benefited from playing at Miller Park all year.
Their 51 home wins during the regular season were tied with the Cubs' for the most in the National League. They went 2-0 in Milwaukee in their sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the Division Series and are now 2-1 in their friendly confines against the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Typically, home-field advantage isn't a major deal in baseball. Teams playing in their own park win 54 percent of the games in both the regular season and the playoffs, the lowest figures in the four major North American sports, per the Action Network.
In a series that's so tightly contested, however, either side will be looking for every small edge it can get. For the Brewers, playing at home has provided a legitimate edge all year.
They'll hope that remains true in Game 7 to punch their World Series ticket.
Game 7 is set for Saturday night at Miller Park with first pitch scheduled for 8:09 p.m. ET. The pivotal clash will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.