MILWAUKEE – The high-five at the plate from Brandon Woodruff nearly took out Lorenzo Cain.
It’s not often that a reliever hits a home run.
Batting left-handed. Off lefty Clayton Kershaw. In the playoffs.
Woodruff stunned the ace with an early home run and Milwaukee’s normally shutdown bullpen held on — barely — as the Brewers beat the sloppy Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 Friday night in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
Hard-throwing Josh Hader and the Brewers earned their 12th straight win, one shy of the franchise record set to open the 1987 season.
Woodruff, of all people, had the momentum-swinging hit.
“It’s something obviously coming into the day, you don’t know in your wildest dreams that’s going to happen,” he said.
It was the first time in postseason history that a pitcher homered in a lefty vs. lefty matchup. Woodruff was understandably pumped as he rounded the bases.
“He was fired up when he came home. He nearly broke my arm,” Cain said.
The Dodgers scored three times in the eighth to make it 6-4, then nearly tied it in the ninth. Chris Taylor hit an RBI triple off Cain’s glove in deep center field with two outs before Corey Knebel fanned Justin Turner to end it.
Kenta Maeda contributed a scoreless eighth to help give the late-rallying Dodgers a chance to win.
“I’m glad I was able to shut them down for an inning, although it’s unfortunate we were unable to win,” Maeda said. “I went to the mound wanting to give us a boost in the next inning.”
Speedy Lorenzo Cain only made weak contact but reached on an error by third baseman Justin Turner, bringing NL batting champ Christian Yelich to the plate. Maeda enticed the All Star to swing at two straight 150-kph fastballs, the second of which saw him ground into a double play to end the inning.
“I wasn’t aiming to get a double play there,” Maeda said. “It was (however) the best possible outcome.”
Game 2 is Saturday at Miller Park, with Wade Miley pitching for the Brewers against Ryu Hyun-jin.
The Dodgers did some damage against the Brewers’ bullpen. Milwaukee used seven pitchers, including three scoreless innings from Hader. Woodruff threw two perfect innings and got the win.
“But for us to get a look at these guys out of the pen in a seven-game series, I think that’s a good thing,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Kershaw was chased before he could retire a batter in the fourth inning.
It was another miserable October night for the lefty, whose regular-season brilliance has often disappeared in the postseason.
It was the shortest postseason start of Kershaw’s career. He had a 4.65 ERA in 10 career appearances, including seven starts, going into Friday.
That ERA went up after allowing six hits and five runs — four earned — in three-plus innings.