The Milwaukee Brewers rolled into the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies with the best record in the National League and it showed. The Brew Crew swept the Rockies 3-0 to advance to the NLCS.
— MLB (@MLB) October 7, 2018
Naturally, a sweep produced plenty of good performances from the winning team, and plenty of struggles from the loser. Milwaukee got an early statement from the likely league-MVP. Meanwhile, Colorado’s MVP candidates collectively dropped the ball.
The Brewers had the most dominant pitching performance imaginable. On the other hand, the best Rockies pitcher didn’t throw one pitch. One of their relievers also allowed two runs without allowing a hit or walk.
The Brewers are moving on to the NLCS, while the Rockies are going home. These were the biggest winners and losers in the NLDS showdown between the two.
Winner: Christian Yelich
In the third inning of Game 1, Brewers came to the plate with a man on and no score. He quickly cleared the bases and put a dent on the scoreboard.
— MLB (@MLB) October 4, 2018
At the time, it felt like a big home run. Its significance got even bigger when the Milwaukee offense was effectively shut down for the remainder of the game. Colorado eventually scored two in the ninth to tie the game. But thanks to Yelich’s heroics, that rally only tied the game. Eventually, the Brewers bounced back and won it with a walk-off single from Mike Moustakas.
It can sometimes be difficult to project what would have happened later in the game had something earlier gone different. Still, it’s only logical to think that Milwaukee would not have won Game 1 were it not for Yelich’s early statement.
Loser: Charlie Blackmon
Blackmon is a .302/.359/.497 career hitter. Over the last three regular seasons, he’s hit .315/.380/.552. To put it bluntly, his .083/.083/.083 performance against Milwaukee was just not good enough.
The Colorado offense collectively failed over the three-game series. We certainly can’t lay all of that at the feet of Blackmon. Still, we can’t help but ask ourselves a question. Would DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and the rest of the Rockies have done any better in this series if the table was better set up for them?
It’s impossible to answer that definitively. But when a lead-off man is struggling to reach base, life gets awfully hard on the rest of the offense.
Winner: Mike Moustakas
By and large, the Brewers are a team without a lot of playoff experience. Moustakas is an exception, and he let his experience show against Colorado.
In Game 1, he had the aforementioned walk-off hit in the 10th inning. In Game 2, with Milwaukee nursing a precarious 1-0 lead in the eighth, Moustakas delivered another RBI single to deliver an insurance run to his team (two more would follow). Moose finished the series hitting .364.
The Brewers were not an offensive juggernaut in this series. Moustakas was a steady hitter and certainly was a driving force in Milwaukee advancing to the NLCS.
Loser: Bud Black
We mean no disrespect to German Marquez. But Kyle Freeland needed to get the ball in a must-win Game 3, especially after what he did in the Wild Card Game.
Kyle Freeland with the GEM pic.twitter.com/ihUNf1SIDP
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) October 3, 2018
Remember, Tuesday’s effort came on short rest. Sunday’s would have been on full rest.
Marquez was not awful by any means. But he needed to be much better to make this decision worthwhile. If the series was tied 1-1, we would have understood it a little better. Use Marquez in Game 3, then use Freeland in Game 4 to either win the series or force a Game 5.
But down 2-0? That was a gamble that Black just couldn’t afford to take. His best starting pitcher needed to get the ball. As it is, Freeland didn’t throw even one pitch in the series.
Winner: Erik Kratz
The best hitter in this series was not an MVP candidate like Yelich, Arenado, or Story. No, that honor went to Kratz, the 38-year-old journeyman catcher with a .211 career batting average.
Kratz hit a staggering .625 in this series. He got three hits in Game 3 alone, while the Rockies entire team had only four.
Colorado pitchers actually did a decent job of containing Milwaukee’s best hitters through the series. Having someone like Kratz hit so well was just back-breaking.
Loser: Scott Oberg
It’s one thing for a pitcher to get beat by good hitting. It’s another for him to get beat by his own mistakes. In the sixth inning of Game 3, that’s precisely what happened to Oberg.
With only one out and Moustakas on third and Kratz on second, Oberg struck Orlando Arcia out. That’s when things went south. Standing on the rubber, Oberg nonchalantly tried to flip the ball from his glove to his hand. He couldn’t handle it and the ball fell to the ground, which is a balk. That brought Moustakas home and sent Kratz to third.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 7, 2018
Two pitches later, Oberg threw a wild pitch. That brought Kratz home. In other words, Curtis Granderson struck out, yet two runs were scored in his at-bat.
Again, this wasn’t great hitting. This was a pitcher completely self destructing on the mound. Trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning, the task was already quite tough for the Rockies. These mistakes made it nearly impossible.
Winner: Manny Pina
Given the offenses and stadiums involved, conventional wisdom said that this would be a pretty high-scoring series. Conventional wisdom was wrong.
As such, it’s hard to ignore what Pina did in Game 1. Both teams had a bunch of missed opportunities throughout that game. Two of Colorado’s came on attempted steals, both of which were cut down by Pina.
Playoff baseball is a different animal. It can sometimes be hard to overpower the best pitchers the league’s best teams have to offer. Teams sometimes need to resort to small-ball to score runs and win. Pina showed that he can keep that in check. That bodes quite well for the Brewers going forward in the playoffs.
Loser: Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story
Blackmon’s inability to get on base did the Rockies’ lineup no favors. That said, Arenado and Story are not blameless for their struggles.
Coming into this series, if we knew that Milwaukee would only score 13 runs in three games, we would have liked Colorado’s chances. That probably would have been the case even knowing that Blackmon would struggle. But Arenado and Story just didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Arenado hit .182 for the series while Story hit .167. The two men who hit 75 combined homers on the season managed only one double between them.
The postseason is often about unsung heroes. But generally, to win in the playoffs, you need your best players to play like it. That didn’t happen for Colorado here.
Winner: Milwaukee pitching
There’s just no way that we can isolate one man — or even a small group — here. This series didn’t come down to guys like Josh Hader and Corey Knebel dominating in the late innings. Make no mistake, that happened. But the men in front of them were just good. As a whole, Milwaukee’s pitching was simply dominant.
Let’s start here. The Rockies scored only two runs for the entire series. You can’t possibly win a best-of-five series scoring less than three. And remember, Miller Park and Coors Field are two of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league.
Additionally, this wasn’t just a matter of the Brewers coming through in the tight spots. In 28 innings, Colorado recorded just 14 hits, walked six times, and struck out 30 times. Very few tight spots even came up. This was just an overpowering effort from the entire Milwaukee staff. There’s a lot of baseball to play in October. But these pitchers made an emphatic statement in this series.