Three points of interest in the first two NLCS tilts between the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers
There’s more than a good chance you’re still trying to catch your breath.
The Brewers and Dodgers have put on two thrilling contests for America; prize fights where the home team draws first blood and the visitors have charged back in the closing innings. In Game 1, the Brewers held the Dodgers off with the tying run at third. In Game 2, the Dodgers’ Justin Turner hit a Miller Park moonshot into the outfield loge level and Kenley Jansen locked the game down.
If you’re watching these games and not gripped by the tension, you’re not paying attention. This is October baseball at its finest.
Three notes as the teams head west for Dodger Stadium:
Christian Yelich is struggling
You know it couldn’t last forever. Yelich’s emergence as one of Baseball’s top stars this season has faded some in his first foray into postseason ball. After cruising past Colorado to the tune of a 1.100 OPS, Yelich has had a pair of uncharacteristic showings against Dodger pitching, going 2-8 with two walks and three strikeouts.
The struggles look somewhat similar to Lorenzo Cain‘s slump at the end of the season (Cain, by the way, only had two extra base hits all of September), where the Brewers leadoff man slashed .227/.227/.273 over the final five games, generally not seeing the ball well and striking out in uncharacteristic ways. Contact looks awkward and doesn’t follow the spray chart.
With Yelich’s rise to prominence comes greater scrutiny, to be sure, and the level of performance the young star sustained at his 2018 peak was hardly, ahem, sustainable. But with Ryan Braun still inconsistent at the plate and Jesus Aguilar finding his way out of his second-half struggles, Yelich will continue to have to be the hero the Brewers need to capture their second-ever league pennant.
Manny Machado: baseball heel
Machado is an all-world baseball player, phenomenally talented, has a beautiful swing, great arm and solid instincts in the field. He will undoubtedly command a hefty salary this winter.
But where his antics were buried in the debacle that is Baltimore Orioles baseball, they are magnified in a high-profile market like Los Angeles and especially on the premier stage that is October.
The ‘give me some love’ mockery, dogging it toward first on grounders, the general attitude when he doesn’t get a call he wants at the plate: this isn’t some old grouch lamenting bat flips and goofballery. We’re pretty on board with most of the antics with which ballplayers indulge themselves. Machado, though, is something else: a baseball heel on a generally-likable Dodgers squad (Yasiel Puig notwithstanding).
Baseball is at an odd crossroads right now with the general public and it needs all the good guys it can get. On a team with great stories (Justin Turner, David Freese, Kenley Jansen’s comeback from a serious heart condition), it’s a strange juxtaposition with guys like Puig and Machado, particularly Machado, who is squarely in the petri dish. ‘Manny don’t care’ isn’t the most marketable slogan for a guy who’s about to be for-hire.
There is no such thing as a true home field advantage in MLB’s best-of-seven format. The top-seed does not enjoy a true advantage when the lower-seeded team gets three consecutive games. When the first two games are split, as we have in the NLCS, the lower seed actually has the home field advantage.
Yes, the obvious counterargument is that if the top-seed takes care of business, it shouldn’t matter. But the lower seed shouldn’t enjoy an advantage after the result of one of two games because teams and their attendant media generally want to save a few bucks on travel. The real argument to be made here is that ought to be incumbent upon the lower seed to earn home field by winning both games, forcing the higher seed to earn the advantage back while on the road. In this instance, the Dodgers now have a natural home field advantage and the Brewers find themselves the underdog.
The game should reward the better performer in the season and not be beholden to travel expenses. Right now, MLB has it exactly backward.
Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.