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Recap: Clayton Kershaw dominates as Dodgers defeat Brewers to advance to NLDS

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Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during Game 2 against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 batters in a 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 2 on Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers look to close out their National League wild-card playoff series against the Milwaukee Brewers with a win in Game 2 on Thursday.

Clayton Kershaw sets career high for postseason strikeouts over eight shoutout innings to help deliver a 3-0 series-clinching win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.

The Dodgers will play the winner of the wild-card matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series. The Cardinals-Padres series is tied, 1-1, heading into Friday’s decisive Game 3.

Final: Dodgers win 3-0, advance to NL Division Series

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol throws to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol delivers during the ninth inning of a 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Brusdar Graterol finishes off the series with a scoreless ninth inning and the Dodgers are moving on to the NLDS.

It’s the Dodgers first sweep in a playoff series since the 2017 NLDS and their first playoff shutout since Game 1 of last year’s NLDS.

Tonight was all about Clayton Kershaw, who matched a career postseason best with eight shutout innings and set a career postseason high with 13 strikeouts.

The Dodgers never trailed in the series and will face the winner of tomorrow’s deciding Game 3 between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres at the neutral site Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, beginning next Tuesday for a best-of-five series.

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Kershaw’s night ends, Brusdar Graterol on for the save

Brusdar Graterol is summoned to get the final three outs of the series, bringing Clayton Kershaw’s masterclass on the mound to an end.

His final line: 8 innings*, 0 runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, 13 strikeouts**

* - matches career playoff high
** - sets new career playoff high

Some other stellar numbers:
-Brewers were 0-for-three with runners in scoring position
-He got 20 swings-and-misses on 45 sliders
-He threw a first pitch strike to 24 of his 27 batters faced
-He retired 12 of his final 13 batters
-He averaged 91.8 mph on his fastball

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Kershaw sets new career high for strikeouts in a playoff game 

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the sixth inning of Game 2.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the sixth inning of Game 2 against the Brewers on Thursday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

In what has become one of his best ever postseason appearances, Clayton Kershaw added to his superlatives in the eighth inning. He matched his longest career playoff appearance by completing the frame. He set a new career high for strikeouts in a playoff game at 13, getting two more in the inning.

And, after issuing his first walk of the game to Luis Urias with one out, he made up for it by picking Urias off at first base.

Brusdar Graterol was warming in the ‘pen and Kershaw’s pitch count is at 93. His night appears done as he traded fist and glove bumps with teammates in the dugout. Dodgers remain ahead 3-0 midway through the eighth.

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Kershaw keeps on rolling with seventh scoreless inning

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw gets the ball back from the catcher in Game 2 on Thursday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

For only the third time in his career, Clayton Kershaw has completed the seventh inning of a playoff game without allowing a run.

The left-hander is up to 11 strikeouts, still has not walked a batter, and last allowed a baserunner to lead off the fifth. He’s up to 80 pitches, but is only one inning away from matching his career-long for a playoff start.

It remains 3-0 Dodgers at the seventh inning stretch.

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A Brewers injury and ejection explanation 

The Dodgers didn’t add to their lead in the sixth, as the score remains 3-0 L.A. but the Brewers lost catcher Jacob Nottingham to injury. He was replaced by Omar Narvaez.

Also, as he was leaving the mound in the fifth inning, Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff was ejected after yelling at the umpire apparently over a potential third strike to Austin Barnes earlier in the inning that was (rightfully, according to the automated strike zone) ruled outside.

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Kershaw keeps dealing, Brewers keep slumping

Dodgers' AJ Pollock rounds third base to score on a double by Mookie Betts.
Dodgers’ AJ Pollock rounds third base to score on a double by Mookie Betts during the fifth inning in Game 2 against the Brewers on Thursday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Pitching with a lead for the first time tonight, Clayton Kershaw made easy work of the Brewers in the sixth inning. For the first time tonight, he struck out the side to collect his eighth, ninth and 10th strikeouts of the game.

The question now: Does the Brewers offense have enough to pull off a comeback?

The team hasn’t scored more than three runs since Sep. 20 (nine games ago) and has recorded six straight outs against Kershaw, who is only at 72 pitches and showing few signs of fatigue.

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Dodgers offense comes alive to take a 3-0 lead

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts connects on a two-run double in the fifth inning Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers’ fifth inning rally started with back-to-back singles by Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor, and it was kept alive after the Brewers’ Jedd Gyorko couldn’t come up with a potential inning-ending double-play pick at first. Hits from from Austin Barnes and Mookie Betts in the ensuing at-bats then led to runs.

Barnes, the Dodgers’ catcher and No. 9 hitter, was in a 1-2 hole with two outs but laid off a borderline fastball and fouled off another before sending an RBI single back up the middle to open the scoring.

In the next at-bat, Betts got ahead 2-0 and hooked a sinker down the left-field line for a two-run double.

That will end Brandon Woodruff’s night. Star reliever Josh Hader is coming into the game with the Brewers’ season now on the brink.

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Kershaw strands runner at second, keeps Brewers off the board

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner keeps a close eye on the batter as Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner keeps a close eye on the batter as Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch in the third inning Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

For the second time tonight, a Brewers baserunner reached second base, with Keston Hiura hitting an infield single and advancing on a one-out groundout.

However, his teammate Jacob Nottingham couldn’t bring him home. Instead, Clayton Kershaw struck out the Brewers catcher on three pitches, fanning him with a slider buried in the dirt for his seventh punch out of the night.

As Nottingham slumped back to the dugout, ESPN broadcaster Tim Kurkjian laughed at the left-hander’s dominance and asked: “How does anyone get a hit anymore?”

Good question. Both teams are struggling to do it tonight.

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Woodruff’s fastball has been great. His offspeed stuff has been too

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff delivers during Game 2.
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff delivers during Game 2 against the Dodgers on Thursday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Brandon Woodruff continues matching zeros with Clayton Kershaw. The Brewers starter is up to eight strikeouts and retired the side in order in the fourth for the third time tonight, keeping this game scoreless going into the fifth.

His fastballs have been good, accounting for 41 of his 63 pitches. But his offspeed offerings – a changeup, slider and curveball – have been just as tough to hit. He’s thrown that trio a combined 22 times. Four have led to swings-and-misses, and only one has been put in play.

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Kershaw passes Roger Clemens in playoff strikeouts

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the second inning against the Brewers on Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

With two more strikeouts in a scoreless fourth inning, Clayton Kershaw passed Roger Clemens for the fourth-most career playoff strikeouts all-time. The Dodgers left-hander is up to 175 in his career with five tonight. Next up on the list: Andy Pettitte with 183.

It looks like he’ll have the opportunity for more in this game. Through four innings, he’s only at 46 pitches and already has nine swings-and-misses. Eight have been with the slider.

Still no score midway through the fourth.

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Dodger get first hit, but are still waiting on first run

Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, Oct., 1, 2020 - Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the second inning Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Austin Barnes became the Dodger’ first baserunner tonight, grounding a single the other way with two outs in the third. The Dodgers couldn’t do anything with it, however, as Mookie Betts struck out looking on a Brandon Woodruff changeup in a 2-2 count.

After three innings, here is Clayton Kershaw’s and Woodruff’s combined stat line: 0 runs, 3 hits, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts

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Dave Roberts changes his opinion of Kenley Jensen’s Game 1 performance

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen celebrates with catcher Will Smith.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen celebrates with catcher Will Smith after a 4-2 win over the Brewers in Game 1 on Wednesday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts emerged from Game 1 on Wednesday discouraged by Kenley Jansen’s performance, initially thinking the closer didn’t look good and saying that his stuff lacked “teeth.”

But Roberts changed his tune before Game 2 on Thursday. Roberts said Jansen’s performance was better than his original evaluation after watching the video. Asked if he offered a different opinion simply to instill confidence in Jansen, Roberts emphasized he was sincere.

“It’s better than I thought,” Roberts said. “And that’s a good thing for the Dodgers.”

The manager, however, acknowledged that Jansen’s dip in velocity over his last four outings, which on Wednesday included an 86-mph cutter well below the pitch’s average speed, is “not a good trend.” He said it wasn’t the result of a physical ailment. Before Wednesday’s game, Jansen, in an effort to reverse the pattern, spent time working on his mechanics on the Dodgers bullpen.

Roberts insisted Jansen “absolutely” remains the team’s closer. But it’s clear his every pitch will be closely scrutinized by decision makers.

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No score with both pitchers rolling early on 

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the first inning of Game 2.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

After two innings, there has been only one baserunner in the game. That’s how good Clayton Kershaw and Brandon Woodruff have been in the early innings. Each has leaned on their strengths (for Kershaw, a greater mix of slider and curveballs; for Woodruff, a high, hard fastball) to mow down the heart of the opponents’ order.

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No score through the first

Dodgers leadoff batter Mookie Betts jumps to avoid being hit by a pitch during the first inning of Game 2.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Dodgers knew Brandon Woodruff’s high fastball was coming, but their first three hitters couldn’t do anything with it. Mookie Betts and Corey Seager both went down swinging on 97 and 98 mph heaters, respectively, and Justin Turner simply flied out to right on a 2-0 four-seamer up in the zone.

“It’s velocity, it’s high spin rate,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Woodruff’s fastball during an in-game ESPN interview. “He’s a guy that’s going to go out there and challenge you. We like the fastball. He trusts his fastball. Hopefully we can [do] the old Barry Bonds, make him check off his best pitch.”

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A strong start from Kershaw

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Angels on Sept. 25.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Clayton Kershaw looked sharp from the start in a scoreless first inning. He used three straight sliders to strike out Avisail Garcia in the game’s first at-bat, then froze Christian Yelich with a two-and-two curveball that caught the top of the zone.

Jedd Gyorko singled with two outs, but Ryan Healy grounded out to end the inning. Kershaw’s velocity was good, topping out at 93.1, and nine of his 14 pitches in the inning were either a slider or curveball.

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TV Update: Game to start on ESPN2

Like last night, another game on ESPN is running late, forcing the Dodgers’ game to begin on ESPN2. The Dodgers will switch over to ESPN once the Padres-Cardinals game ends.

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Meet Brandon Woodruff, the Brewers’ elimination game starter

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff walks past fan cutouts in the Dodger Stadium seats on Tuesday.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

After churning through much of their bullpen last night – with the important exception of closer Josh Hader – the Brewers will be hoping for a strong start out of right-hander Brandon Woodruff in Game 2.

The 27-year-old was solid in the regular season, posting a 3.05 ERA and 11.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings over 13 starts. His two fastballs, a four-seamer and sinker, both average above 96 mph and rank among the league’s best in spin rate. His changeup, slider and curveball were also all effective. None of three were hit for better than a .250 average by opponents.

This will be Woodruff’s sixth postseason appearance and third playoff start. He has a 1.65 career postseason ERA and allowed only two earned runs in 9 ⅓ innings in the 2018 NLCS against the Dodgers.

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Roberts thinks Kershaw gives Dodgers ‘huge advantage’ in close-out game

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts smiles in the dugout during Game 1 on Wednesday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

For the first time since last October’s infamous Game 5 against the Washington Nationals, Clayton Kershaw will take the mound in the postseason, where he has a 4.43 ERA in 32 career appearances.

The 2020 regular season, however, was a throwback campaign for the 32-year-old left-hander. He made 10 starts and won six of them. He recorded his lowest ERA, 2.16, in four years. His once decreasing velocity ticked back up, with his fastball averaging 91.6 mph. And if not opening the season on the injured list, he would have been in the thick of the Cy Young discussion.

He recorded good advanced analytics too: A 196 ERA+ (where 100 is average), 28.1 strikeout percentage, .217 expected batting average against and 53.3% ground ball rate.

“Anytime you have Clayton pitching for you, it’s a huge advantage,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said pregame. “I think we’re in a good place. I think our bullpen is in a good spot. I think Clayton, with the extra day [of rest], is in a great place mentally, physically. We’ve been playing good quality baseball for weeks now. Our goal is to finish it out tonight.”

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Dave Roberts to Dodgers: Please don’t talk to ESPN while playing the game

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner stands in the field.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was mic’d up and talking to ESPN’s broadcast team during Game 1 against the Brewers on Wednesday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

On the day after third baseman Justin Turner did an in-game ESPN interview while playing third base, Dodgers manager Roberts said he does not want his players to do any more. Although television networks have encouraged putting microphones on players as a way to popularize and humanize them, Roberts said he is “not a fan” of such interviews during postseason games.

“Baseball is kind of evolving, but, yeah, I don’t know,” Roberts said. “That’s a decision Justin made. I don’t see that happening with our guys going forward.”

No balls were hit to Turner during the inning in which he wore a microphone. But the concept drew widespread criticism Thursday, when three balls were hit to Oakland Athletics center fielder Ramon Laureano during the inning he wore a microphone. He dropped an expletive on national television, and later he was asked how long it would take him to catch his breath after a long run.

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Dodgers’ Julio Urías does what he’s asked, and against Brewers that meant putting up zeros

Dodgers relief pitcher Julio Urias throws during Wednesday's win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

As dominant as the Dodgers looked early Wednesday, and as comfortably as they closed out a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card round, there were several moments in the middle innings their superiority came under threat.

Between the third and sixth, the offense went cold. In the fourth, a three-run lead was cut to one after Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia’s two-run home run. In each of the three innings that followed, the Brewers put the tying run aboard. Twice, a runner got to second.

It had all the ingredients for another potential Dodgers postseason collapse.

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14 photos capturing Game 1 of Dodgers vs. Brewers in wild-card playoffs

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Eric Yardley, right, beats Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger to first base.
Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Eric Yardley, right, beats Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger to first during a third-inning ground out in Game 1 of their National League wild-card series at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers opened the MLB postseason Wednesday with a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the National League wild-card playoffs at Dodger Stadium.

Unfortunately, no fans were at the stadium to see it. Only a vast sea of cardboard cutouts of fans paired with the strange buzz of pumped-in crowd noise greeted players as they ran onto the field. It provided another surreal spectacle amid a semblance of on-field normality in what surely will be an unforgettable 2020 baseball season.

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World Series quest begins despite the lack of playoff atmosphere at Dodger Stadium

Dodgers fan Josh Gitt waves a bandanna while watching the Dodgers play the Milwaukee Brewers.
Dodgers fan Josh Gitt waves a bandanna while watching the Dodgers play the Milwaukee Brewers from a distance outside Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

In baseball’s adaptation to the new normal, the morning routine is altogether odd. Dave Roberts likes to walk the neighborhood, pop in somewhere for a cup of coffee, get the postseason pulse of the town. But there is no walking the neighborhood this fall for the Dodgers’ manager, because there is no escaping the hotel.

This is the baseball bubble, in which the Dodgers have played at home for the past week without actually going home. Get on the bus to go from Dodger Stadium to the hotel, then get back on the bus to go back to the hotel, sleep, repeat.

“It seems,” Roberts said with a laugh, “like summer camp.”

The postseason started for the Dodgers on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, but without the postseason atmosphere.

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Kenley Jansen isn’t at his best, but gets Game 1 save

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen celebrates with catcher Will Smith following the Dodgers' 4-2 win.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen celebrates with catcher Will Smith following the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got Christian Yelich to swing through a 90-mph cut-fastball for the final out of Wednesday night’s 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, his strikeout finishing a strong three-man relief effort that sealed Game 1 of the best-of-three National League playoff series.

He did not look pleased.

Jansen accepted a congratulatory handshake from catcher Will Smith but did not crack a smile as he greeted the rest of his teammates behind the mound. In fact, the look on Jansen’s face was more of a scowl.

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Game 1 recap: Dodgers’ bullpen holds back Brewers in win

Dodgers reliever Julio Urias pitches to Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich.
Dodgers reliever Julio Urias pitches to Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich during the fifth inning of Game 1 on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers’ pursuit of their first championship since 1988 shifted to another gear Wednesday in a vacant Dodger Stadium against one of the worst teams ever to qualify for the postseason.

The setting for Game 1 of the best-of-three wild card round, a layer added to the 2020 postseason to generate more revenue, against the Milwaukee Brewers was unprecedented. The typical extended pregame introductions were absent Wednesday. The anthem was performed by the stadium organist, but a military flyover didn’t rumble overhead. The only towels being waved were digital animations on screens around the ballpark.

The energy 56,000 people have produced every October in Chavez Ravine was replaced by automated fan noise. But the objective remained the same. Survive until you’re the last team left in the tournament. This year, the routine will require 13 wins.

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Walker Buehler’s blister saga reveals a deeper truth — Dodgers aren’t invincible

As dominant was Walker Buehler was at times, as overpowering as he was for most of his start, he was a source of heart-thumping anxiety Wednesday night. And this was only one game.

If the Dodgers are to win the World Series this year, there will be three more rounds of this.

Three more rounds of wondering whether the blister on Buehler’s pitching hand will reappear.

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A rejuvenated Clayton Kershaw set to start for the Dodgers in Game 2 vs. Brewers

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers against the Angels on Sept. 25.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Clayton Kershaw will make the 26th start and 33rd appearance of his rocky postseason career in Game 2 of the wild-card round against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. He’ll take the mound fresh off a bounceback 2020 regular season.

His stuff, notably his velocity, improved from the previous two years. His 2.16 ERA was seventh among pitchers who logged at least 50 innings. He was the Dodgers’ ace. How does he explain the rejuvenation? Did it all come down to being healthy? He says he doesn’t exactly know.

“I wish I had an answer,” Kershaw said. “I’d be able to repeat it better. But I’m hopeful some of the things I’ve done because I’ve been kind of beat up in the past have prepared me to kind of maintain what I’ve got going on right now.”

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Dodgers vs. Brewers lineups: Joc Pederson will not start in Game 2

Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson bats against the Houston Astros in July.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Joc Pederson has been a playoff mainstay for the Dodgers since his first major league season in 2015. He’s been the architect of huge October moments. But in likely his last postseason with the club, his role will be diminished.

The reality became apparent with the Dodgers’ lineup for Game 2 of their wild card series against the Milwaukee Brewers. Brandon Woodruff, a hard-throwing right-hander, will start for the Brewers. In the past, Pederson would’ve been a no-brainer addition to the lineup. This year, he isn’t included.

Instead, AJ Pollock, a right-handed hitter, will start in left field and Will Smith, another right-handed hitter, will start as the designated hitter. Pederson will start on the bench.

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Brewers’ Game 2 hopes against Dodgers rest with Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader

Milwaukee pitcher Brandon Woodruff delivers during a game.
Milwaukee pitcher Brandon Woodruff will start Game 2 against the Dodgers.
(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell sounded like a guy who knows something the rest of us don’t.

His team had just lost to the Dodgers 4-2 in a National League playoff opener Wednesday night, the Brewers doomed by a brutal start in which left-hander Brent Suter walked five batters — two with the bases loaded — and gave up three runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Milwaukee entered the best-of-three series without two of its top three starters — ace Corbin Burnes lost to an oblique strain and left-hander Brett Anderson to a blister on his index finger — and one of baseball’s most dominant relievers, right-hander Devin Williams lost to a shoulder injury.

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