The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 on Saturday to win the NLCS and advance to their second straight World Series.
The spotlight always shines bright in the playoffs. In a seven-game series, it shines even brighter. The big moments — good and bad — take even more significance.
This series provided plenty of both from the likes of Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress.
These were the biggest winners and losers from Los Angeles’ win over Milwaukee in the NLCS.
Winner: Yasiel Puig
Puig had a good overall series, hitting .333/.364/.619 over the seven games. But in truth, what he did in Game 7 alone easily makes Puig one of the biggest winners of the series. With the Dodgers clinging to a narrow 2-1 lead, Puig came up with two on and two out in the sixth inning. He delivered the insurance and then some, hitting a crushing three-run homer (watch here) while giving Los Angeles all of the cushion that it would need.
Loser: Craig Counsell
Old school fans will see this NLCS as a hit against the “bullpenning” strategy that the Brewers used. But the truth is that, generally, Milwaukee’s bullpen held up well. It was just hard to ignore the times where that didn’t happen. Counsell was simply too formulaic with his use of the bullpen against the Dodgers. He stuck to a plan like a manager might in a spring training game. And being formulaic is really hard when things go awry (ie: a pitcher doesn’t perform well or a game goes into extra innings). That’s what happened to Counsell in this series.
Winner: Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw wasn’t always sharp in this series. That’s undeniable. He took a Game 1 loss that was punctuated by a home run allowed to the opposing pitcher, Brandon Woodruff (watch here). But when he took the ball in Game 5, Kershaw was brilliant. He worked through some early problems to throw an absolute gem, allowing only one run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings. That effort gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead, allowing one mulligan (which was much needed) for the final two games in Milwaukee. Then, for good measure, Kershaw pitched the final inning in the decisive Game 7.
Loser: Jeremy Jeffress
Jeffress tossed 4.2 innings over five games. In that time, he allowed four runs, surrendered 10 hits, and walked three batters. Jeffress also allowed two absolutely crushing homers. In Game 2, Milwaukee was up 3-2 and looking to take a 2-0 lead in the series. But Jeffress surrendered a two-run homer to Justin Turner (watch here), giving Los Angeles a 4-3 lead, which stood as the final. In Game 7, Jeffress was on the mound to surrender the aforementioned three-run homer to Puig. The NLCS was disastrous for Milwaukee’s closer.
Winner: Josh Hader
The Brewers lost this series. But they couldn’t have possibly asked for anything more out of Hader. The lefty was simply dominant against the Los Angeles. He appeared in four games, went 7.2 innings and allowed no runs on only five hits while walking two, and striking out 12 batters. Certainly, the Dodgers are quite happy that they won’t have to see this guy any more in October.
Loser: Mike Moustakas
Moustakas was arguably Milwaukee’s biggest trade deadline acquisition. He added even more power to an already potent lineup and gave a team lacking a lot of postseason experience some veteran leadership. But in the NLCS, Moustakas hit only .138/.194/.172. He was far from the only Brewer to struggle offensively. But the postseason spotlight generally shines even brighter on midseason acquisitions. Moustakas had some good moments in this series. But by and large, he struggled.
Winner: Cody Bellinger
Bellinger didn’t finish the NLCS with terribly impressive stats. But it’s awfully hard to imagine that Los Angeles would have won this series without him. His single in Game 4 not only delivered a win for the Dodgers, but it was likely the difference between a 3-1 deficit and a 2-2 series for Los Angeles. Then, after a Christian Yelich home run put the Brewers ahead in Game 7, Bellinger delivered a crushing two-run homer to bring the momentum back to the Dodgers. The homer also stood as the game winner. Bellinger had his struggles in this series. But when his team needed him, he delivered in a big way.
Loser: Yasmani Grandal
Austin Barnes didn’t exactly have a great series. Even still, he was by far Los Angeles’ best option behind the plate. Grandal had 11 at-bats in this series. He recorded only two hits and struck out six times. And as bad as he was at the plate, Grandal was even worse as a catcher. He looked absolutely lost behind the plate in every imaginable way. It’s going to be awfully hard for Dave Roberts to justify getting Grandal much playing time in the World Series. That’s bad for anyone. For a pending free agent, it’s catastrophic.
Winner: Kenley Jansen
Jansen appeared in four games in the NLCS. In 4.2 innings, he allowed no runs, surrendering only one hit, two walks, and striking out seven along the way. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers won all four games in which Jansen appeared. A difficult finish to the season gave some reason to doubt how dominant Jansen would be in the postseason. But as Los Angeles heads to its second-straight World Series, that’s no longer a concern. In fact, Jansen is clearly one of his team’s greatest strengths.
Loser: Christian Yelich
Fair is fair. Yelich did come through reasonably well over the final two games of the series. But the Brewers needed more from him in the first five. From Games 1-5, Yelich picked up only three hits. More notable is that all three of those hits were singles. Remember, this is a man who slugged at .598 during the regular season. The Brewers lost three of the first five games. Two of those three were only one-run losses. This could have been a much different series if Yelich was swinging a better bat in the first five games.