MILWAUKEE—The bullpen day has come to October.
The Milwaukee Brewers plan to open their first post-season series in seven years with a reliever.
Manager Craig Counsell hadn't decided who would go first when the Brewers host the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the NL Division Series this afternoon.
Milwaukee led the majors with a 1.98 bullpen ERA in September, so why not go straight to a great strength?
“We're going to share the outs a little bit more but we really are confident with the days off in the series, the way we're coming into the series, that we'll certainly be able to do it,” Counsell said.
Those relievers will face a Rockies' lineup that finally got a day off yesterday after three games in three days in three different time zones.
Colorado faced the Cubs' tough left-handed starter Jon Lester in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night, a 2-1 win in 13 innings.
The Rockies earlier managed just one hit in 6 2/3 innings off Dodgers' righty Walker Buehler in a 5-2 loss in L.A. in the tie-breaking game for the NL West crown on Monday.
Now for something completely different.
“Well, I've never experienced that in the post-season, facing a bullpen, facing so many different guys,” Rockies' veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said.
The Oakland Athletics started reliever Liam Hendriks against the N.Y. Yankees in the AL wild-card game last night.
The trend of using a relief “opener” started with the Tampa Bay Rays this season.
Facing a traditional starter, hitters hope to get a better read on pitches the second and third times through the lineups. Hitters may not have that luxury in a bullpen day.
Colorado manager Bud Black is adhering to a simple approach.
“Again, I think the ultimate challenge is just have good at-bats, play baseball, have a good approach against any pitcher that the Brewers throw out there,” he reasoned.
Milwaukee's best starter, Jhoulys Chacin, started the tie-breaking game for the NL Central title Monday—a win over the Cubs at Wrigley.
He's going in Game 2 tomorrow on three days' rest.
Otherwise, the Brewers have been going with a rotation the last few weeks that includes left-handers Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez, along with right-hander Zach Davies.
Miley and Davies would have been available on regular rest for Game 1.
The Rockies, meanwhile, are sticking with a traditional starter for the opener. Right-hander Antonio Senzatela is 6-6 with a 4.38 ERA in 23 games, including 13 starts.
Senzatela made his big-league debut at Miller Park last year. He allowed two hits and struck out six over five shutout innings in a 2-1 win.
His biggest challenge in a formidable Brewers' lineup will be to contain Christian Yelich, the MVP candidate who hit an NL-high .326 this season and nearly won the Triple Crown.
“Just got to throw quality pitches and compete,” Senzatela said.
The other NLDS features Atlanta at the Dodgers, which gets underway tonight.