Los Angeles' Walker Buehler placed his hands on his hips and gazed into the right-field corner of Dodger Stadium. He stared as if he could not believe what had just happened, how a baseball had been lifted into the wind and carried over the fence, how a light-hitting shortstop had pushed the Dodgers two defeats away from winter in a 4-0 defeat to Milwaukee in game three of the National League championship series.
Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia supplied three homers in the entirety of the regular season. He has hit two in the first three games of this series, the second a two-run blast off Buehler, which stunned the Dodgers in Monday's seventh inning. Arcia soured an otherwise admirable effort from Buehler, who struck out eight before foundering in his final inning and left with four runs on his ledger.
The game featured a sampling of LA's season lowlights. The team permitted a run when Yasmani Grandal could not smother a wild pitch. Grandal permitted a passed ball in the eighth, when the game already felt out of reach. The lineup flailed with abandon, unable to make either solid contact or productive outs, striking out 14 times as Milwaukee secured a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Dodgers pawed at Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin but could not do damage. As a group, the lineup went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The Brewers relief corps mowed them down after Chacin exited. Josh Hader, Milwaukee's relief ace, recorded two outs in the eighth.
The ninth inning exemplified the team's ineptitude in the clutch. The team managed to put two runners aboard against Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress. Then Cody Bellinger popped up on the first pitch. After Yasiel Puig walked to load the bases, Grandal and Brian Dozier struck out.
Milwaukee scored first for the second game in a row. Buehler walked outfielder Christian Yelich in the first inning, with Yelich holding firm as Buehler sprayed 98-mph fastballs above the zone. Yelich scored when fellow outfielder Ryan Braun whacked a belt-high slider from Buehler into the left-field corner for a double.
Buehler responded by striking out the next two batters he faced. He struck out the first two hitters in the second inning. He was working with Grandal, who was benched in game two after a wretched game one:.
Grandal possesses a sizable amount of power and a keen eye. But he is an erratic hitter, prone to streaks and slumps. He entered game three at a low ebb, with only two hits this postseason. His bat remained frigid in the second, when he struck out with two men in scoring position to defuse a rally.
But he delivered in unorthodox fashion to start the fifth. He blooped a double down the left-field line, with the ball bouncing out of play out of Yelich's reach. After Enrique Hernandez flew out, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was presented with a dilemma: Should he hit for Buehler?
Buehler had roared back after the first-inning scuffle. Roberts understood the series called for three consecutive games, and he opted not to expose his bullpen early. The decision did not lead to much offense. Buehler struck out, Pederson flied out and the rally fizzled again.
Milwaukee squeezed a second run out of Buehler and his defense in the sixth. With two outs, second baseman Travis Shaw smashed a 97-mph fastball into centre field. Bellinger sprinted toward the warning track, stutter-stepping as he tried to read the ball's flight. He mistimed his leap and smashed into the wall. The ball bounced away from him as Shaw received credit for a triple.
Shaw scored without another hit. Buehler spiked a curveball in the dirt. The pitch bounced off Grandal's left forearm as he tried to slide his hips to block it. The wild pitch doubled Milwaukee's lead.
The bottom of the inning led to more exasperation with the offense. Justin Turner made it to second base when Brewers third baseman Mike Moustakas booted a grounder and threw the baseball into the camera well. The one-out error expedited Chacin's exit. Brewers manager Craig Counsell inserted Corey Knebel to tamp the flames. Manny Machado smashed a grounder right at Moustakas for one out. Bellinger waved at a 97-mph fastball in vain.
Roberts tried to sneak Buehler through the bottom of Milwaukee's batting order in the seventh. The plan was foiled when catcher Erik Kratz doubled down the left-field line. Two pitches later, Arcia reached across the plate to connect with a 97-mph fastball. The ball soared into the right-field corner. Puig bashed his ribs against the wall, but could not retrieve the baseball.
Los Angeles Times