Posted on October 15, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Tied up at one game apiece, the NLCS shifts back to Los Angeles for three games starting with Monday’s Game 3. The Brewers used their bullpen to hold onto their lead and secure a win in Game 1. However, the Dodgers were able to get to the Milwaukee bullpen in Game 2, erasing a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 and even the series. With the series tied and both games being decided by a single run, Monday’s Game 3 could turn out to be the pivotal game in the series.
A Good Day Off
Sunday’s off day in the series will seem like a blessing for the Brewers, who will able to give some of their bullpen arms some much-needed rest. Josh Hader threw three innings in Game 1, leaving him unavailable for Game 2. Meanwhile, both Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel have appeared in all five of Milwaukee’s playoff games. Everyone should be available out of the bullpen for the Brewers in Game 3, which will be a luxury. The Brewers are clearly trying to ride their bullpen all the way to the World Series. The caveat, of course, is now they have games on three straight days before the next off day, so Craig Counsell may need to manage the bullpen a little differently.
Milwaukee is hopeful that Game 3 starter Jhoulys Chacin can go deep in Monday’s game and keep their bullpen from doing too much. Chacin was 15-8 in his 35 starts during the regular season. However, he got bounced around against the Dodgers in early August, giving up nine runs (eight earned) on just five hits over 4.1 innings. Of those five hits, three left the ballpark. On the bright side, Chacin tossed five shutout innings against the Rockies in his first career postseason start last week. If he can give the Brewers five solid innings on Monday, they’ll gladly take it.
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Meanwhile, the Dodgers will give the ball to rookie Walker Buehler in Game 3. Buehler hurt himself with three walks in his first playoff start against the Braves in the NLDS, ultimately giving up five runs over five innings. However, when he faced the Brewers at Dodger Stadium in late July, he only allowed one run on five hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking none despite taking the loss. The Dodgers should feel comfortable with him taking the mound in Game 3, especially with Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda available if he struggles again.
For the Dodgers, look for Cody Bellinger to be an X-factor in Game 3. He’s just 1 for 17 during the postseason. However, that one hit was a pinch-hit single to help start a rally in Game 2. That could be the one hit he needs to get going, especially since he’s 5 for 12 with a triple and two home runs in his career against Chacin. If the Dodgers can get Bellinger going, he can become a difference maker in this series.
For Milwaukee, the duo of Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas are the X-factors in Game 3. The pair is a combined 2 for 15 in this series, as they’ve been held in check by left-handed starters the first two games. Both should be grateful to see a righty take the mound in Game 3, especially since both were 2 for 3 against Buehler back in July. Despite all of the other big bats in Milwaukee’s lineup, the Brewers will have a tough time winning this series if they don’t get more production from Yelich and Moustakas.
Game 3 in this series is the definition of a tossup game. The Brewers, as mentioned, will be relying on their bullpen to do the heavy lifting in this game. However, the Dodgers have scored eight runs in 10.1 innings against the Milwaukee bullpen in this series. As long as Buehler can calm his nerves and improve from last week’s start against the Braves, the Dodgers should have the edge in this game. Los Angeles wins 6-4.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.