For the first time since the Milwaukee Brewers began their incredible late-season surge, their bats went cold enough to lose.
The Brewers managed just eight hits over 13 innings in their 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night, evening the NL Championship Series at 2 games apiece.
With the chance to move to the brink of the World Series, a lineup that was resourceful and powerful throughout the regular season and in the division series couldn’t hit a homer or string together any significant rallies.
Just two of the Brewers’ hits went for extra bases. They went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, stranding 10 runners.
Those struggles made it even more painful when Manny Machado slid home with the winning run on Cody Bellinger’s single.
“There’s a bunch of guys we need offense from,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’ve got some good contributions from guys at the bottom. But I think a bunch of guys are not really on it right now offensively.”
The most prominent struggler is Christian Yelich, the likely NL MVP from nearby Thousand Oaks. He went 1 for 5 with a single and a walk in Game 4, dropping the regular-season triple crown contender to 3 for 16 (.188) with no extra-base hits or RBIs in the NLCS.
Yelich isn’t alone in his slump, however: Milwaukee is batting .224 through four games in the NLCS, striking out 41 times — which would seem like a lot if the Dodgers hadn’t struck out 49 times.
“We had opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” Yelich said. “Eventually it’s going to catch up to you. It was a hard-fought game. It was a great baseball game, it really was. Both sides had opportunities, and they were just able to catch one in there at the end.”
The Brewers hadn’t scored fewer than two runs in a game since Pittsburgh blanked them on Sept. 22. Milwaukee promptly won its final seven regular-season games and an NL Central tiebreaker against the Chicago Cubs to earn its first division title since 2011, and the Brewers did more than enough at the plate in a sweep of Colorado in the Division Series.
While they haven’t pounded the ball with the proficiency of Boston or Houston, the Brewers entered Game 4 of the NLCS leading the playoffs with a .265 team batting average.
But Milwaukee lost for just the second time in its last 15 games because the Brewers didn’t generate nearly enough offense to back their pitching staff, which turned in another stellar night of work. Even in their only other loss during this 15-game stretch, the Brewers scored three runs in Game 2 of the NLCS.
Ryan Braun contributed three singles in Game 4, but the rest of the lineup was dire. Milwaukee got only two runners to third base, none after the seventh inning.
Lorenzo Cain went 0 for 6 in the leadoff spot. Mike Moustakas also went 0 for 6, while Jonathan Schoop, Jesus Aguilar and Orlando Arcia were a combined 2 for 15.
Pinch-hitter Domingo Santana drove in the Brewers’ only run with a fifth-inning double that scored Arcia. Manny Pina led off the seventh with a double punctuated by a big celebration at second base, but he didn’t score.
The Dodgers’ defense also contributed to the woes with several nifty plays, including Cody Bellinger’s full-stretch, diving catch of Cain’s sinking liner leading off the 10th.
The Brewers don’t have much time to fix their woes, but Counsell might need to contemplate more lineup changes for Game 5. Moustakas is 2 for 17 with six strikeouts in the NLCS, while Cain is 4 for 20 with seven strikeouts and Aguilar is 3 for 14.
“I think there’s a bunch of guys we need to get going, and we will,” Counsell said. “I think good players will get good offense going, and we’re going to need it, and I expect it to happen.”
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