Milwaukee Brewers’ survival of the hittest: Reaction to Game 1 Win

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Jeremy Jeffress #32 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts to a double play during the ninth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Miller Park on September 28, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Jeremy Jeffress #32 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts to a double play during the ninth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Miller Park on September 28, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Survival is the name of the game in MLB’s playoffs and the Milwaukee Brewers did just that Thursday night but must continue to overcome adversity each day.

The key takeaway from Thursday night’s NLDS Game 1: Survival. By the thinnest of margins, the Milwaukee Brewers managed to end the game 3-2, before things truly unraveled.

Going forward, the Brewers will need to grab hold of the reins with a little more strength and determination if they are to survive this opening series against the formidable Colorado Rockies.

The best way to initiate that attack plan: Swing the bats with authority. Advantage must be seized when opportunity knocks and the Crew needs to put the Rockies out of the game as quickly as possible.

Thursday night, the Brewers let the Rockies hang around by missing out on scoring chances. Still, everything was going swimmingly for Milwaukee in Game 1, until it wasn’t. Christian Yelich hit a two-run homer in the third inning, and the Brewers’ staff held the Rockies impotent until what is usually the final frame.

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee’s occasional closer, who had been solid in the regular season, looked shaky and quickly blew the save in the top of the ninth inning at Miller Park. Immediately the Brewers’ apparent control of the contest shattered. Things began to grow very tenuous until Milwaukee rebounded in the bottom of the tenth with a walk-off single from Mike Moustakas.

Having used a whopping six of the 11 pitchers on the NLDS roster already in the first game, the Brewers will probably look for a little more stretch out of their pitching staff Friday and hope the offense can put up some crooked numbers to discourage Rockies’ rallies.

In order to give itself plenty of bench options and flexibility in the field, Milwaukee sacrificed depth on the pitching side for the series against Colorado. A bold choice, but one that could backfire if games go long, or slowly.

Milwaukee has been no stranger to winning tight ball games in 2018, but if high-pressure arms like Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, Joakim Soria and Jeremy Jeffress get overworked, the Brewers may be forced to seek bigger outs from lesser arms like Junior Guerra and…it’s unclear who else.

Jhoulys Chacin will “start” Game 2, but if he can’t cover more than four or five innings, the Brew Crew’s bats’ awakening will be crucial to back up the pitchers.

Otherwise, manager Craig Counsell will be juggling a bunch of spot starters like Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and Gio Gonzalez. Woodruff pitched well to start Thursday’s game but it’s unclear how often he can be used in this series, and Gonzalez nearly entered Game 1 in the 11th, an inning which mercifully wasn’t necessary.

Thankfully it didn’t come to that, but the best way to proceed in the NLDS from here on out is not survival, but crushing offensive power.

It appears the Brewers did not set their division series roster with the intention of the series going to five games. This looks like the kind of roster that is meant to bludgeon the Rockies in three games; four, tops.

As a result of this aggressive strategy, the survival of the pitching staff will be a minor concern because it will have only to cover 27-29 innings. Only 81 outs would be needed to sweep the series for the Brewers, although they added three extra outs to that total by going to extra innings Thursday.

Wade Miley will be a very important piece here as well, with Zach Davies and Chase Anderson left off the roster for the Colorado series. As much as Counsell loves to diminish the importance of “starting pitchers,” those initial out-getters remain invaluable, particularly if they can minimize the opponents’ scoring chances and eat enough innings to get toward the sixth and seventh frames when the true bullpen artists can take over.

Survival for the Brewers pitching staff depends on effective bridging from Out 1 to Out 16, 17 or 18. No one wants to see Guerra forced to cover four or five innings in one of these vital games simply because the out-getter who began the game inefficiently threw too many pitches. The same relievers can only be re-used so many times from day to day.

Hopefully, Counsell and general manager David Stearns haven’t overestimated the depth of these 11 pitchers. Thursday’s bullpenning plan was not only unconventional but also a gutsy roll of the dice. Right now, it’s unclear if the Brewers are bluffing or are just so supremely confident in their pitching staff, they truly believe nothing can shake them. The team’s faith in its guys has borne tremendous results, it must be said.

However, if the bats dominate as they are capable, it won’t matter. Yelich needs some help from the rest of the lineup, though. The Rockies have series punch in their lineup, but the Brewers can slug with anyone.