The Rundown: Brewers Force Game 7, Former Cubs Surgeon Passes Away, Lots of Cubs and Baseball Rumors

Unless you’re a Brewers fan, Game 6 of the NLCS was kind of a letdown, though I’m sure no fan of baseball is upset about the consequences. After five games of tight, hold-your-breath baseball, last night’s tilt between the Dodgers and the Brewers was never really in doubt after Milwaukee jumped to a 4-1 lead after the 1st inning. Ho-hum, nothing to look forward to except Game 7, I guess.

The 7-2 victory before 43,619 rabid fans at Miller Park entitles fans across the nation to a prime-time viewing of a Saturday night, winner-take-all National League title fight, with the winner earning a champagne-soaked locker room celebration and a delirious flight to Boston for Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night.

Milwaukee will attempt to be the first team this season to clinch a playoff series on their home turf and they have at least a little history on their side. Home teams have won nearly 70 percent of all-time Game 7 league championship series.

That probably doesn’t faze the Dodgers, though. Home teams are just 55-56 in all winner-take-all games in MLB postseason history and Los Angeles has won four straight winner-take-all games on the road.

Still, the Brewers will have a fully rested Josh Hader at their disposal. That probably doesn’t give Los Angeles fans the warm fuzzy feels they had hoped for. Dodgers fans can thank Corbin Burnes for that. Burnes was magnificent in his two innings last night, good for a .137 win probability added. No pitcher added more to his team’s chances to win last night than the Milwaukee reliever.

Jhoulys Chacin, who has certainly turned out to be the best bargain free agent signing of 2018, gets the start for the Brewers. Chacin won game 3 of this series, pitching 5+ innings of shut out baseball before turning it over to the Brewers bullpen — one that is the envy of all of baseball — to close out the victory.

The even-keeled starter hasn’t given up more than a single run in an outing since mid-September. And with the Brewers’ bullpen having already broken the all-time record for postseason innings pitched, a similar effort from the big righty could allow Craig Counsell to deploy the bullpen as soon as the 5th inning if Milwaukee has a lead.

How many innings will Hader be allowed to pitch tonight?  “Twelve,” Counsell joked.

The Dodgers will counter with Walker Buehler, the rookie sensation who has pitched brilliantly in some very tough must-win September and October games for the Dodgers. But the playoffs have been a different story for the young righty.

Buehler has pitched twice this postseason, and not very effectively. He allowed five runs in five innings in Atlanta in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. Earlier this week, he surrendered four runs in seven innings in Game 3 of the NLCS. Both were Dodgers losses, and tonight’s game represents far more pressure than any game he has ever pitched in as a professional.

Buehler’s leash will be short. Every pitcher on the Dodgers roster, including Clayton Kershaw, will be available out of the bullpen.

“I’m prepared for whatever,” Kershaw said. “Last time I was in this situation, it was the exact same thing. I pitched Game 5, and I threw four innings in Game 7.”

That was during last season’s World Series. Kershaw was excellent, but Houston won the title with a 5-1 victory.

The stakes are enormous and the first pitch at Miller park is scheduled for 7:09 PM CT.  I’d venture to guess that a lot of viewers will be seeing the Chacin and Buehler for the first time. Strap it on, it should be a great game.

Playoff News & Notes

Cubs News & Notes

It looks like only the Cubs and five other teams have the financial means to pursue Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado this winter.

The Cubs have a number of decisions to make this offseason, and (more) changes may be coming to the staff as well as the roster.

Former team surgeon Michael Schafer passed away this week, leaving quite a legacy.

Baseball News & Notes

Take a look at the all time winner-take-all LCS games in MLB history.

Alex Cora believes that allegations that the Astros were cheating during the ALCS actually helped the Red Sox take the series.

The Mets have interviewed at least six candidates for their open GM position, including former Brewers GM Doug Melvin. One dark horse is CAA agent Brodie Van Wagenen.

Joe Girardi removed himself from consideration for the Reds’ managerial opening. David Bell is now the favorite.

The Nationals plan to make a significant effort to re-sign Bryce Harper, though payroll constraints may prevent them from matching other offers for the all-star right fielder.

White Sox 3B Matt Davidson had enough success pitching in emergency situations this year that he’s going to train to become a two-way player next season.

The average length of time for a nine-inning game was 3 hours, 44 seconds this year, down from 3:05:11 in 2017. Games have gradually taken longer since 2005, when the average length was 2:46.

Jon Heyman offers a whole lot of offseason rumors in this week’s MLB Notes, including the expectation that the Cubs will pick up Cole Hamels’ option.

Extra Innings

With strikeouts piling up, scoring plummeting, and teams tanking, the game is seeing declining interest for the first time in decades. Facing a similar conundrum 50 years ago, baseball’s rules committee lowered the pitcher’s mound five inches and tightened the strike zone, making it harder for pitchers to dominate the game. That sparked more scoring the next season and made a more exciting games for fans.

Raising the mound could be one way to reduce game times. In 1968, Game 7 of the World Series, a pitching duel featuring Bob Gibson of the Cardinals and Mickey Lolich of the Tigers took just 2 hours and 7 minutes to complete, a 4-1 victory for the Tigers and a world championship.

They Said It

  • “I think the biggest part of Chacin’s game is knowing what he has to do, what he’s capable of doing. And for the naysayers to doubt our abilities on the field, we just shut them up, that’s all we have to do. Just go right at them and shut them up.” – Jeremy Jeffress
  • “I think Walker is prepared for this moment. As far as his rest, he’s ready to go. And as far as his heartbeat, the weapons, all that stuff, we’re in really good shape with him. He understands the magnitude of this moment, this game, and he’s a good person for us to take the baseball.” – Dave Roberts
  • “It would be an honor for me to pitch in Game 7.  I think it’s way more than what I dream about. And just to think about it, just blows my mind away.” – Jhoulys Chacin
  • “Game 7 to go to a World Series. I don’t know if it gets more high stakes than that.” – Walker Buehler

Saturday Walk Up Song

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting by Elton John. Game 7, game on.

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