Reliever Woodruff's homer stuns Kershaw, Brewers take Game 1
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The high-five at the plate from Brandon Woodruff nearly took out Lorenzo Cain.
It's not often that reliever hits a home run.
Batting left-handed. Off lefty Clayton Kershaw. In the playoffs.
Woodruff stunned the ace with an early home run and Milwaukee's normally shutdown bullpen held on — barely — as the Brewers beat the sloppy Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 Friday night in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
Hard-throwing Josh Hader and the Brewers earned their 12th straight win, one shy of the franchise record set to open the 1987 season.
Woodruff, of all people, had the momentum-swinging hit.
"It's something obviously coming into the day, you don't know in your wildest dreams that's going to happen," he said.
It was the first time in postseason history that a pitcher homered in a lefty vs. lefty matchup. Woodruff was understandably was pumped as he rounded the bases.
"He was fired up when he came home. He nearly broke my arm," Cain said.
The Dodgers scored three times in the eighth to make it 6-4, then nearly tied it in the ninth. Chris Taylor hit an RBI triple off Cain's glove in deep center field with two outs before Corey Knebel fanned Justin Turner to end it.
Game 2 is Saturday at Miller Park, with Wade Miley pitching for the Brewers against Hyun-Jin Ryu.
The Dodgers did some damage against the Brewers' bullpen. Milwaukee used seven pitchers, including three scoreless innings from Hader. Woodruff threw two perfect innings and got the win.
"But for us to get a look at these guys out of the 'pen in a seven-game series, I think that's a good thing," manager Dave Roberts said.
Manny Machado homered and drove in three runs for Los Angeles. The Dodgers committed four errors, including two by catcher Yasmani Grandal, who also had two passed balls.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell's pitching-by-committee strategy continued to be a hit, at least until the late innings.
Finally, the hard-throwing Knebel restored order by striking out Turner. Knebel walked Joc Pederson with two outs before Taylor's long drive.
"It's the postseason and anything can happen, you saw right there. It was a good feeling for it to go our way right there at the end," Knebel said.
After starter Gio Gonzalez went two innings, nicked by Machado's home run, Woodruff entered in the top of the third. In the bottom half, Woodruff made a sudden impact — with his bat.
Woodruff became just the third relief pitcher to homer in the postseason, tagging a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner for a tying solo drive. Woodruff pumped both arms as he rounded first base, while Kershaw turned away and looked down at the ground.
"I knew he could swing the bat a little bit, for sure," Kershaw said. "I didn't know he could do that, but I knew he could hit a little bit."
Woodruff was a career 4 for 22 (.222) hitter before connecting. He had one previous homer, in July against Pittsburgh's Nick Kingham.
Kershaw was chased before he could retire a batter in the fourth inning.
It was another miserable October night for the lefty, whose regular-season brilliance has often disappeared in the postseason.
And it wasn't even Christian Yelich and the Brewers' stars who got to him. Hernan Perez hit a sacrifice fly later in the third, and pinch-hitter Domingo Santana had a two-run single in the fourth for a 4-1 lead that chased Kershaw from the mound with nobody out.
It was the shortest postseason start of Kershaw's career. He had a 4.65 ERA in 10 career appearances, including seven starts, going into Friday.
That ERA went up after allowing six hits and five runs — four earned — in three-plus innings.
"The errors affected the game. But as far as Clayton, I just think it was poor execution," Roberts said.
Jesus Aguilar added a solo home run in the seventh for the Brewers, his second of the postseason. Cain went 3 for 5 and scored a run.
Eat up, Milwaukee.
This late-season run earned Brewers fans a free burger at an area restaurant chain.
George Webb Restaurants has a long-standing promotion to give away a free burger whenever the Brewers win 12 straight.
It's time to dine after a dozen.
Save the date: October 18, George Webb announced after the game . Save one for reliever Jeremy Jeffress, too.
"Honestly, as long as you put some mayo on it I'm good with it," he said.
George Webb also paid up in 1987.
It's another all left-handed pitching matchup in Game 2. Ryu pitched seven shutout innings, striking out seven and allowing for hits, in the Dodgers' Game 1 victory over the Braves in the Division Series. Ryu is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four career postseason starts. Miley is making his second start of the postseason, going 4 2/3 innings in the Brewers' Division Series-clinching victory over Colorado on Sunday. He is 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 15 career games against the Dodgers.