The Milwaukee Brewers will try to keep up the incredible form that has seen them win 11 straight games as they enter the NLCS as a slight underdog to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are attempting to reach the World Series for the second consecutive year.
Game 1 of the NLCS is set to be played on Friday night, with Los Angeles putting ace Clayton Kershaw (9-5, 2.73 ERA) on the mound, while Milwaukee has yet to announce a starter.
Kershaw Leads Impressive Dodgers Rotation
The 30-year-old Kershaw should be well-rested for Game 1 at Miller Park, where he�ll provide a stiff test for Christian Yelich and the rest of Milwaukee�s lineup.
�His numbers speak for themselves,� Brewers outfielder Curtis Granderson told reporters. �Watching him as a teammate, he�s no different than playing against him � he�s a competitor, he goes after his guys and gives his team a really good opportunity to win.�
Starting pitching in general is an area in which the Dodgers appear to have a clear edge over the Brewers. Behind Kershaw are Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA), Walker Buehler (8-5, 2.62 ERA), and Rich Hill (11-5. 3.66 ERA), all of whom helped Los Angeles compile the lowest ERA for a starting rotation in the National League at 3.19.
Any of those pitchers might pitch Game 2. While there has been some speculation that Ryu might be held back to pitch at Dodger Stadium, where he has been dominant this season, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts told reporters on Wednesday that he�s not factoring the home/road splits into his decision.
�He�s a veteran pitcher that regardless of where we decide he pitches, we expect him to throw the baseball well,� Roberts said. �We�re confident that whenever he pitches he�s going to pitch well.�
Brewers Aren�t Sure They Deserve Underdog Label
The Brewers have advantages in this series too, with their bullpen being a particularly dominant area of their team. But Milwaukee is definitely the underdog in the series, something that some players are embracing.
�I think we�re taking the underdog mentality,� Brewers infielder Travis Shaw said on Wednesday. �Look at the four teams that are left�we�re kind of the no-name out of the four, but we kind of like that role.�
On the other hand, rookie reliever Corbin Burnes pointed out that Milwaukee hasn�t acted like an underdog this season.
�The only thing that you could consider us underdogs in is the payroll and the market size,� Burnes told reporters. �But as far as who had the better season, the record, I�d say we�ve had the better year to this point.�
Right now, bookmakers are siding more with Shaw than with Burnes. At bwin, the Dodgers are a -164 favorite to win the series, while the Brewers are listed at +135.
The winner of the NLCS is almost certain to be an underdog to the American League champions in the World Series. William Hill lists the Houston Astros (2/1) as the World Series favorites, with the Boston Red Sox (12/5) being the second choice ahead of both Los Angeles (3/1) and Milwaukee (4/1).