MILWAUKEE — With one Justin Turner swing Saturday, the narrative changed from thoughts of a sweet sweep to survival of the fittest.
The Milwaukee Brewers are heading to Los Angeles and they won’t be emboldened by a 2-0 lead after Game Two of the National League Championship Series. All signs were pointing toward that until Turner, the Dodgers’ red-headed and heavily-bearded third baseman, deposited a 2-0 pitch from a suddenly faltering Jeremy Jeffress in the centerfield seats.
For once, the Brewers’ vaunted bullpen failed them in their 4-3 loss, which ended their winning streak at 12.
And, suddenly, it’s not even a sure thing that the Brewers will make it back to Miller Park with three straight games coming up at Dodger Stadium.
Could the Dodgers be cracking the code of the Brewers relievers? That’s worth speculating.
“The more you face relievers, the easier it’s going to get,” Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger said.
Making this loss all the more frustrating for the Brewers is that starter Wade Miley was cruising along before being pulled for the first of five relievers in the sixth inning. The veteran lefty had allowed two hits at that point and was very much interested in staying in the game.
So masterful was Miley that, at one point, he was 2 for 2 with one run at the plate and the Dodgers were 1 for 17 with no runs against him.
Instead, the Dodgers chipped away at Jeffress, who has struggled during the postseason, and Corbin Burnes, who combined to give up four runs.
Afterward, a subdued Miley could only take what happened in stride and contemplate what might have been had Brewers manager Craig Counsell decided to be contrary to what has driven to Brewers’ success this season and struck with his starter.
“You want to stay in the game, but at the same time, I think there’s more understanding with the bullpen we have done there and with how effective they’ve been all year,” Miley said.
And with that Turner swing on a 2-0 Jeffress pitch, he was able to bring down a Brewers team that has simply refused to lose the last couple of weeks. In fact, the last time they lost was Sept. 22, when the Pirates beat them 3-0 at Pittsburgh.
And now the heat in on and this goes way beyond Southern California’s annual scorching Octobers. The Brewers must figure out a way to turn the tide or their season could be over as early as Wednesday.
Making this all the more daunting in that Jhoulys Chacin, Monday’s scheduled starter, suffered one of his worst performances of the season in his start at Dodger Stadium this season. He was reached for nine hits and eight runs in 4⅓ innings in the Brewers’ 21-5 loss Aug. 2.
If the Dodgers are starting to figure out the Brewers relievers — and there were signs of that in each of the two playoff games at Miller Park — it really is time to be concerned.
“Sometimes it takes a couple of pitches or a couple of swings to get a feel for a guy,” Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor said.