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Ups and downs of bullpenning on display as Brewers take Game 1

Perhaps more than any team in postseason history, it was entirely appropriate that it was a middle reliever who sparked the euphoria that engulfed 43,615 fans at Miller Park on Friday and propelled the Brewers to a 6-5 series-opening win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. That middle man was a fastballing rookie “out-getter” they call “Woody” — Brandon Woodruff — who after one game of the National League Championship Series is the MVP of the round.

Woodruff rocked Brewtown in the third inning when the blasted a Clayton Kershaw fastball over the center-field fence for Milwaukee’s first run of the NLCS. It landed just wide of a party deck suspended over the fence, eluding the eager arms of the Milwaukee faithful, 407 feet from home plate.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“It definitely changed the vibe for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, perhaps understating matters just a little.

The blast generated all kinds of lists. It was the fourth time a pitcher homered against Kershaw. He became the third reliever in history to homer in a postseason game, and the first to do it in a lefty-lefty matchup. In short, what Woodruff did against Kershaw was not supposed to happen.10

Kershaw went into a bit of a tailspin after that. He didn’t get any help from the Dodgers’ ragged defense, and Kershaw was done after three-plus innings and his club trailed 5-1.

“It’s something obviously coming in the day, you don’t know in your wildest dreams that that’s going to happen, to be able to get an at-bat off Kershaw and hit a home run,” Woodruff said.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The short outing for Kershaw is a key detail from the game and, quite probably, for the series as a whole. Kershaw is a future Hall of Famer — his business cards should bear that label — and what you saw on Friday was more than a bad outing from a great pitcher. It had some metaphorical punch to it as well.

If we can compare Kershaw to the fictional Gulliver, then the horde of quality relievers in the Brewers’ bullpen are the Lilliputians. And it was Kershaw who ended up subdued and tied down on the beach.

“Once I knew it was gone, it was just one of those kind of moments where you’re not really thinking,” Woodruff said. “I was just letting some emotion out. It was a cool moment, and I was happy that I could just go out there and do it for the team.”

It was the perfect example of not just how the roles of pitchers are changing before our eyes, but why it’s happening. Kershaw is the practitioner of an art that is still vital and hopefully always will be, but sometimes, the masters of that art will be overtaken by the collective. Of course, here we’re not talking about Woodruff’s hitting, but the thing he’s actually on the team to do: get hitters out.