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LOS ANGELES – The San Francisco Giants had champagne on ice up in northern California but the Los Angeles Dodgers were not ready to roll over in the NL West race Friday night despite falling behind early to the Milwaukee Brewers by four runs.
Rallying to score seven unanswered runs, Los Angeles held on for an 8-6 victory at Dodger Stadium that kept the Giants’ magic number at one for clinching the division.
And the Giants’ champagne remained on ice Saturday afternoon after they lost, 3-2, in 10 innings to the San Diego Padres. That kept alive the Dodgers’ hopes of forging a tie for first place as they entered their game Saturday night against the Brewers.
For the Brewers, Friday was another day of marking time until their National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. And another day of losing, as they had done three times in four games on this season-ending trip and 10 times in 16 games since a three-game sweep in Cleveland from Sept. 10-12.
Box score: Dodgers 8, Brewers 6
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Realizing the Dodgers still had something to play for, Brewers manager Craig Counsell went with his “A” team lineup after resting regulars in previous days. But starter Eric Lauer was unable to hold a 5-1 lead and Jandel Gustave, normally a mop-up reliever, was allowed to turn a tie game into a three-run deficit in the seventh.
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The Dodgers struck first on a two-out home run by Trea Turner in the bottom of the first that left Lauer shaking his head. He put a 0-2 fastball up and out of the strike zone, on the outer half, yet Turner managed to drive it down the right-field line and into the short porch inside the foul pole for a 1-0 lead.
The second inning would spell trouble for Los Angeles in more ways than one, with starter Clayton Kershaw making an early exit. Singles by Eduardo Escobar and Luis Urías got things started, setting up a run-scoring double into the left-field corner by Lorenzo Cain.
A groundout to short by Omar Narváez gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead and Kershaw gave himself a chance to stop it there by striking out Lauer. But Kolten Wong laced a run-scoring double into the right-field corner, and that would be all for Kershaw, who departed with manager Dave Roberts and an athletic trainer.
Brusdar Graterol took over for Kershaw and he didn’t last long either, getting lifted after surrendering two runs in the third as the Brewers boosted their margin to 4-1. Christian Yelich legged out an infield hit with one down and raced around to score when Escobar lined a double into the right-field corner.
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When Urías grounded a single up the middle to send home Escobar for a 5-1 lead, Graterol was replaced by lefty Alex Vesia.
Lauer appeared to be cruising when everything unraveled for him in the fifth inning. With one down, Austin Barnes singled just over Wong at second base and pinch-hitter Albert Pujols hit a grounder into the hole at short for another hit. Mookie Betts then singled sharply to center to load the bases.
Lauer gave himself a chance to escape by popping up Corey Seager but Turner jumped on a first-pitch changeup left up in the zone and lined it out to left-center for a grand slam that tied the game.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts greets second baseman Trea Turner (6) after Turner hit a grand slam off the Brewers’ Eric Lauer in the fifth inning Friday night in Los Angeles.
Just like that, two trends ended for Lauer, who exited at the end of the inning. He had compiled a 1.78 ERA over his previous 14 games (13 starts), limiting opponents to a .179 batting average. Lauer also was a noted Dodgers killer, going back to his days with San Diego, posting a 6-0 record and 1.89 ERA in eight starts.
“Trea got me a little bit today,” Lauer said. “The first one was exactly where I wanted to throw it. He just got to it, and the changeup was obviously the worst pitch I threw today.
“I’m happy with how I threw the ball other than that one pitch. They had a lot go their way. There were a couple of opportunities that, if we get a better bounce than we did, we get out of that scot-free. They got some luck and they got some good hits. I’m happy with how I threw the ball, every other pitch except that one.”
Asked if the Brewers might be getting a little stale by losing games that otherwise are meaningless, Lauer said, “There’s a little bit of a different feel to them because you know you’re already in and everything. I mean, everybody wants to go out there and finish the season strong, keep their numbers where they’re at. We’re out there to compete and play because that’s what we like to do. Knowing that we’re already in doesn’t really change the fact that we want to win every game we can.
“I think we’re looking at these games as warm-up games for the playoffs because we’re playing playoff teams. It’s a good chance to really test ourselves and really get the ball rolling to try to go head on into this postseason. We’re playing a good team with a good lineup so it’s a good test of what (the playoffs) are going to be like.”
The Dodgers jumped ahead, 8-5, with three runs in the seventh against Gustave, who was all over the place with his pitches. Pinch-hitter Matt Beaty put his team on top to stay with a one-out home run to right-center and it only got uglier for Gustave.
After Betts was hit by a pitch, Seager singled to center. When both runners moved up on a wild pitch, the Brewers opted to intentionally walk Turner to load the bases. Yet another wild pitch by Gustave send a run home and he exited after Justin Turner popped out.
Lefty Brent Suter took over and the Dodgers boosted their lead to three runs on an infield hit by Max Muncy – a sharp grounder that Wong smothered but couldn’t make a play on.
“With how we designed it, I was open to going to Brent for Seager,” Counsell said when asked why he stuck with Gustave so long. “But once Beaty hit the homer, I tried to let Gustave get through the inning. Once we were down, I wanted Gustave to get through the inning.”
After Kershaw’s early departure, Roberts went deep into his bullpen, summoning seven relievers. The Brewers had success against only one, veteran righty Joe Kelly, trimming the Dodgers’ lead to 8-6 on an RBI single in the eighth by pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach.
Closer Kenley Jansen was called on to record the final four outs for the Dodgers.
Of the game turning into a bullpen game for the Dodgers, Counsell said, “It’s a little different. I think that’s the advantage relievers have, is they only have to see a hitter once. Eventually you’re asking a lot of guys to have a good night, but it’s tough.
“Bullpen games are tough when you’re only seeing one pitcher. Generally, you can’t last as a staff doing that, but obviously we’re at the end here so they should be able to survive it. We weren’t able to get much going. We did a nice job against Graterol but that was the only gut we got a good rally against.”